How to beat fake news: Trust, but verify

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All of us of a certain age remember Ronald Reagan’s utterance “Trust, but verify” – a translation of the Russian proverb “Doveryai, no proveryai.” Reagan used it during nuclear disarmament talks between the US and the Soviet Union in the 1980s.  “Trust, but verify” is an important maxim to observe on social media as well, as we try to figure out what to do about “fake news.” More thoughts on this after the break.

It takes very little effort – either by bookmarking and visiting Snopes.com, or using a very simple Google query – to verify the accuracy of information you pass along via social media.

My general rule of thumb is the more incendiary the information, the more it needs to be verified. The harder the info is to understand, the more it needs to be verified.

If you can’t verify the accuracy of the info, you have absolutely no business passing it along.

Information is the currency of social media. When you pass along bad information, it’s like using counterfeit money or writing a bad check.

All of us connected by services like Facebook and Twitter should feel bound by an inherent social contract to stop and reject “fake news” in whatever form it presents. We are all responsible for the part that we play – and complicit when such stories become popular.

This is not a problem that needs to be fixed with a new pay-to-play service from Apple.

This is not a problem that Facebook or Twitter can wave away with a new algorithm.

Critical thinking is a basic life skill. We all, collectively, need to do a better job at it.

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