Credibility is the currency of social media and online relationships, yet so many people impoverish themselves by passing on poorly researched information, false quotes, dodgy statistics and/or poor arguments.
For advocates, if you are out to build trust ensure you earn it by researching information before you share it with your network. There are a lot of authentic sounding stories out there that have circulated for years.
Here are a few tools to get you started:
This used to be part of everyone’s education. Now the only people that learn about the fallacies are communications majors, lawyers and politicians. This site has downloadable posters listing all the sneaky strategies to try to “win” an argument or sway opinion that you can pretty much use as a bingo card when political speeches and debates are on – or during any Fox news editorial program.
Professional researchers and writers Barbara and David Mikkelson started Snopes in 1995 because of their interest in urban myths. They back up their assertions of true/false/partly true with verifiable references and citations.
About.com – Urban Legends (Interantional)
David Emery is a freelance writer who has been researching urban legends since 1997.
Fact Check.Org (US, Political)
Part of the US Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, Fact Check describes itself as “a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.”
Also see http://flackcheck.org – a web site that points out inaccuracies in the media.
ABC FactCheck (Australian, Political)
ABC Fact Check “determines the accuracy of claims by politicians, public figures, advocacy groups and institutions engaged in the public debate. We aim to be available to all audiences by operating across multiple platforms, including television, radio and online.
All verdicts fall into three colour-based categories: In The Red, In The Green or In Between – red being a negative ruling, and green being a positive.”
MediaWatch (Australian, Media)
From the web site, access 20 January 2014: “Media Watch turns the spotlight onto those who literally ‘make the news’: the reporters, editors, sub-editors, producers, camera operators, sound recordists and photographers who claim to deliver the world to our doorsteps, radios, computers and living rooms. We also keep an eye on those who try to manipulate the media: the PR consultants, spin-doctors, lobbyists and “news makers” who set the agenda.
Media Watch airs on ABC1 on Monday nights at 9.20pm and Wednesday mornings at 12.25am.”
Google (Search engine)
If you can’t find answers on any of the above sites – copy a distinctive sentence or phrase from the post/article/email and paste it into a Google search. See what sites it pops up on. If it would be a major news story, search for it on Google news. Try major news outlets in the country of origin of the story. If you still can’t find anything – don’t re-publish it.
For scientific or scholarly articles and fact checking, try Google Scholar http://scholar.google.com
Image: Head in hands, Alex E Proimos CC (b)