Many have been lynched to death in public, elections have been won or lost over disinformation campaigns. A loss to business and products can be colossal because of wrong information. Yet, the rumour mongers get away without being taken to task.
The tragedy is that many innocent people blindly believe what is being sent via social media. Most people do not think of cross-checking the information. They not only believe it but also forward it thinking they are doing a service in the process becoming a conduit in spreading false information.
Media can Fall Prey too
Despite the fact-checking that the editors do, media organisations can fall prey to such false news. As a news breaks, many organisations refer to Twitter or Facebook to check if there is any information available in the area. Invariably, someone or the other has already taken to the Internet to spread some information. Unknowingly, many may spread an information without cross-checking. Indeed, they believe the information they know as facts. A few years back a Thailand based media agency published an information about a cylinder blast as a bomb blast. They were misled by wrong information. They corrected this news soon enough, but the damage had already been done.
Fact-checking is the Answer
Cross-checking for facts is the only way to solve the problem. Many media professionals are hard-pressed for time and are unable to do due diligence before the information is published. More importantly, there is a need to be suspicious of information trickling in. Being alert can avert a major embarrassment or libel.
Skilled to spot Fakes
The key skill is being suspicious of information coming in. This single most important skill makes the journalist look at all sides of the picture. Does anyone have a vested interest? Is the story meant to harm a group of people? Are the sources trying to spread disinformation to further their interest and tarnish a few? Questions which have to be addressed by the gatekeepers before publishing or broadcasting the sensation news.
Each disinformation campaign has multiple giveaways. The alert editor can easily spot them. A story which seems impossible, a headline that promises a different story but the body text is very different, websites that impersonate others and the sender of a message. The reporter has to be sceptical of each one of them.
Effort by Media Houses
World over media houses are now aware of the harm disinformation is causing to the public as well as their own business. They have taken many efforts to debunk such false information. One such initiative has been taken by CBC News. You can take a look at that report, which highlights a few quick ways to spot disinformation.