The How-To Guide On Identifying And Dispelling Online Disinformation

Misinformation is spreading across the internet with immense regularity and breakneck speeds. In the face of this near-constant scam-intensive assault, some people are bound to get swept up in the proverbial cracks. Therefore, this article’s out to help you, dear netizen, with identifying and protecting yourself from scam attacks.

Disinformation is an umbrella term for all sorts of information being presented in an incorrect manner. It’s distinct from misinformation in the sense that the latter comes from a place of uninformed intent; the former is a deliberate act of spreading lies. We’ve become intensely familiar with disinformation as a society, mostly because the internet has made it incredibly easy to disseminate any form of information online, be it true or false. However, due to the anonymity that our glass screens and Wi-Fi connections lend us, it’s often difficult to identify disinformation at a glance. Quite literally anyone can spin up an authentic-looking Facebook page and load it chock-full of misleading graphs and figures they conjured up. A prime example of this can be found in a rather entertaining YouTube video made by comedian Mekki Leeper, wherein he scams a good part of the US population into believing his proposed (and decidedly fake) alternative medicine company.

The first major step towards dispelling disinformation is by keeping oneself informed. Cutting weeds in half only allows them the chance to grow back, potentially stronger than before; a permanent cure involves wrenching them out, roots and all. Diversifying one’s sources of news and information’s a good way to get started. Lurking certain internet forums, toxic as they often prove to be, can also help form one’s opinions on a matter. Just stay as far away from 4Chan as potentially possible. I write this as a half-joke, of course, but it’s important to also get rid of sources that can’t provide objective facts to support their opinions. Citing a non-peer reviewed article written in 1930’s to support one’s misogynistic views is not an objective look at the facts.

A report from Tidio shows, bots and dummy accounts are a major source of online disinformation, although these are much more easily dealt with as opposed to some of our more alive culprits. With platforms such as Facebook and Instagram developing more nuanced AI, bots are often tossed to metaphorical trash compactors right out of the gate. The ones that persist are easy enough to identify. If an Instagram page, for example, has over a thousand followers, yet receives only four comments per post, one can raise their suspicions. If said comments tend to repeat themselves across every post, it’s best to make like a road runner and, well, run.

Finally, always, and I mean always, remember to follow up on screenshots. If a pie chart has no source articles provided underneath, ignore it outright. If it does, however, or if a page shares a screenshot of some reputed news channel sharing information about vaccines causing autism, always remember to double check. Make a quick Google search to see if the cited source has made any such claims as the potential scammer is stating. If not, perhaps consider reporting the original post or poster.

The internet’s an incredibly useful tool, but like any such tool, it can be harnessed for both good and bad with relative ease. It’s so easy to seed discord and hatred amongst the masses, especially when they’re all available across a single, unified platform, and barely anyone knows the other person. Therefore, keeping oneself informed and ahead of the curve is incredibly important.

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