The internet is an incredible resource for learning and staying informed. The problem we encounter in the current era of the internet is this: Because access to the internet is so widespread and creation/exposure of “news-like” content is so effortless, the content we see is not guaranteed to be thorough, unbiased, or factual. As a result, we are often misled and misinformed by articles and posts that distort or omit the truth.
In fact, websites such as Snopes and Politifact have thrived in this new media environment where second opinions seem to have become a necessity. In my experience, social media sites like Facebook are where fear-mongering shareable posts grow and spread, and Snopes is often requested to step in and clarify what’s true and what isn’t:
It’s also become clear that for those interested in sowing discord and confusion, this new media jungle is a the perfect environment to increase extremist viewpoints and isolate people from mainstream understanding of the outside world:
Alex Jones' Infowars: There's a war on for your mind! https://t.co/OYhiqVekUi
WHO Democratically ELECTED #Twitter #Facebook #Google The Power To Decided What Is Or Isn't FAKE News I See NO Hate Speech Here Just #PoLIEtician INTERFERENCE | F*CK EM
— rosshi (@rosshiGB) September 10, 2018
Personally, my strategy for verifying the truth of a piece of news on the internet is to look at the source very carefully, and use extreme caution when reading sources that you’re not already very familiar with and find to be trustworthy. In my opinion, the larger, more established institutions of journalism, The NYT, NPR, Washington Post, The Guardian, RT, and to some extent network and cable TV news services, are the only sources that could be considered large and established enough that any dishonesty or misrepresentation of facts would be heavily publicized and damaging to that organization. A questionnaire created by an organization called the Trusting News Project found that many of the organizations I listed are among the most trusted sources for news today.
I don’t have a specific problem with smaller news organizations, I just don’t feel that the effort necessary to verify that these small publications are unbiased and trustworthy is not worth the payoff of the insight or analysis they provide.