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Seven keys to identify and fight against the infodemic, by Elmer Huerta

Although it is a problem that has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, the truth is that in the last forty years we have been easy prey for misinformation strings and conspiracy theories. Two recent publications allow us to know the roots of the problem and how to deal with it.

I am sure that many of you receive numerous news on your electronic devices daily. Some are about the pandemic, others about global warming, art and culture, and even about the current political situation.

A recent articlewith the suggestive title of “The rise and fall of rationality in language”, published in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” (PNAS), concludes that a good part of humanity lives in a period of post-truthin which

That is to say, we have reached the point where an opinion or belief is worth much more than a factual fact, and that -whether in the field of science or politics- the triumph of emotions over facts is omnipresent in networks. social networks, articles, books and other sources of information.

“In the last 40 years the public places more value on their personal beliefs than on real facts.”

Researchers from the Netherlands and the US in three databases: thousands of books and articles published between 1850 and 2019, articles published in “The New York Times” in that same time interval and Google searches, since that service was available in the late 1990s.

The authors searched in those

Examples of words that suggest rationality or factual facts are science, technology, scientist, chemistry, products, physics, medicine, model, method, datum, data, hypothesis, statistics, calculation, analysis, conclusion, limit, result, determine, transmission, system, size, unit, pressure, area, density and percentage.

On the other hand, examples of words that suggest belief, intuition or subjectivity are spirit, imagine, wisdom, mind, suspicion, believe, think, faith, truth, doubt, hope, fear, life, soul, heaven, holy, god, mystery , sense, sensation, feel, soft, hard, cold, hot, taste, sweet, hear, silent, strong, see, look, dark and bright.

“Fake news not only generates distortion of the truth, but disease and death.”

The authors found that, up to the 1980s, the documents examined showed a

In other words, over the last forty years I mean, public debate seems to be increasingly driven by what people want to be true, than what actually is.

The authors venture: first, the advent of the Internet since the late 1980s and its growing role as a major source of news and information. That has allowed subjective misinformation based on beliefs to appear and spread like wildfire. Second, the appearance of social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, which after 2007 replaced traditional fact-based media (newspapers and magazines). Third, the financial crisis of 2007, which by disproportionately affecting billions of poor people, caused them to seek explanations for the traumatic situation on social networks, which offered them bizarre – but easily believable – conspiracy theories, claiming that the crisis was a consequence of hidden political agendas and “shadow elites” seeking to prosper in times of crisis and social anxiety.

How to recognize fake news

The World Health Organization (WHO) released last week seven tips for recognizing fake news.

1. Evaluate the source. Who is in charge and where does the information they send come from? Nobody should be trusted, and messages written in capital letters or with exclamation marks should be distrusted.

2. Go beyond the headlines, especially if they are sensational. Don’t just read the headline of an article, read it in full to get an idea.

3. Identify the author. Search the web for the name to determine if it is real or believable.

4. Check the date of the information. Is it a recent article and pertinent to the events of the present or is it a rehash? Has a headline, image, or statistic been used out of context?

5. Examine evidence. Reliable articles support their claims with facts, such as quotes from experts or links to statistics or studies. Check that the experts are reliable and that the links support the claims.

6. Examine your own biases or tendencies. We all have biases to interpret what happens in our environment and we must evaluate our tendencies. Ask yourself: what are the reasons that attracted me to a particular headline or article? Does the article challenge my assumptions or reaffirm what I wanted to know? What is my interpretation about it? Why do I react negatively if the article doesn’t think like me?

7. Consult organizations dedicated to verifying facts, such as International Fact-Checking Network and global news sources dedicated to debunking misinformation, including AP, AFP Y Reuters.

The fake news they not only generate distortion of the truth and fanaticism, but – in the case of vaccines, for example –


Source: Elcomercio

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