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"Fake news" on wooden game tiles.

Misinformation, disinformation, fake news…. All these terms, in general, describe the same thing: information that is out of context, missing details, lacking reputable sources, or is just plain false. We hear about misinformation within the context of world or political news a lot, but misleading information can appear elsewhere. Misleading and incorrect information shared about health and wellness and can lead to health decisions that could put you at risk. If something seems suspicious, it might be worth a fact check!

Mediawise, a branch of the fact-checking site Poynter suggests these three questions when looking to discover if something is factual or missing the mark.

  1. Who published the information?
    • By answering this question, you may uncover a potential bias by the author or agency. For example, a company selling a weight loss supplement may not be the best place to learn about a new “miracle” vitamin that the company is selling. A good place to begin this step of the fact-check is to look at who is sharing the information and how they will benefit from such a claim.
  2. What is the evidence?
    • Looking more into the evidence behind the claim can shed light on information that supports or discounts the claim. This article claims, “Teenager left ‘blind’ from diet of Pringles, chips and bread”.  When reading this headline alone, it is easy to be skeptical of the information presented. Looking at the evidence, it is a BBC article and they are a reputable news source without a bias for reporting the story. They interview experts familiar to the case in question and share the science behind what happened. The article also cites a case study from a reputable medical journal that shows further evidence to support the headline’s claim.
  3. What do other sources say?
    • A search of keywords in the suspicious article is a good way to find out what other sources say about the topic. When investigating a “miracle” vitamin or fact checking another claim, look for trustworthy, evidence-based sources. Depending on the topic, a reputable fact checking site may have already done the work for you!

Doing a fact-check only takes a few moments, it can help you make evidence-based decisions. A fact check might just prevent you from sharing misleading or false information on your social media feed.


Author: Courtney Woelfl, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Cuyahoga County

Reviewer: Alisha Barton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Miami County         


Sources:

Roberts, M. BBC. (2019). Teenager ‘blind’ from living off crisps and chips. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-49551337

WBUR. (2020). ‘Everything’s Worth A Fact-Check’: Network Teaches Teens To Debunk Online Myths. https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/08/11/mediawise-teen-fact-checking-network

World Health Organization (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Mythbusters.  https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters#pepper

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