Hannah on... Lessons I've Learnt About Misinformation

Inspired by 'Navigating Modern Life', a short film series by the BBC and the Open University, Hannah shares some key things she's learnt about how to recognise and stop the spread of misinformation.

Navigating Modern Life (2022) is a short film series by the BBC and the Open University. The videos are all under six minutes and they’re really helpful guides on how to recognise and stop the spread of misinformation. Here are my main takeaways and why I’d recommend you go watch them all on iPlayer!

Episode 1: Five Ways to Sharpen Your Critical Thinking

This episode is all about how to get better at recognising misinformation. To do this, you have to sharpen your critical thinking skills. The five main ways are:

  1. Beware of confirmation bias - You’re more likely to accept information as fact when it matches a belief you already have. This also means you’re more likely to discount information when it contradicts your existing views.
  2. Embrace nuance and complexity - Algorithms in social media platforms create echo chambers where you’re surrounded by people who feel the same way as you. That isn’t a reflection of real life. The answers are rarely black or white.
  3. Practice intellectual humility - It feels good to be right in an argument, but it’s a really bad approach to enter a debate with the sole goal of proving the other person wrong. Intellectual empathy is seeing things from the point of view of the other person and engaging in good faith.
  4. Check your sources - Have a look at how the data is framed, the methodology used and check reliable sources.
  5. Avoid fallacies - The straw man fallacy is when you deliberately misinterpret someone’s belief by completely exaggerating it into a caricature. For example, if you say, “I prefer coffee over tea” and someone responds “oh you want to ban all tea drinkers”. Another one is the ad hominem fallacy when you dismiss an argument simply because you don’t like the person who is making it.

Epsiode 2: When Can You Trust Statistics?

This episode is about how to interpret statistics you see online. Here are the three simple rules:

  1. Be calm - Statistics go viral on social media when they make you feel angry or vindicated. Be aware of your emotional reaction, take a look at the language used and think clearly.
  2. Get context - Misinformation can unravel fast when you start to ask really basic questions about context. Check the source and evidence for the claim.
  3. Be curious - The best approach is to simply be curious and see statistics as a way to better understand the world.

Episode 3: Can You Spot Digital Lies?

This episode is about what is being done to stop the spread of misinformation. Here are my main takeaways from the video:

Fact Checking

  • If you see something that you think is misinformation but you’re not sure, type the claim into google with the phrase “fact check” after it. That way you can see if any fact checking organisations have already investigated whether the claim is true.
  • When people are feeling anxious, they’re less likely to think clearly. This means you’re more susceptible to misinformation.
  • One way of spotting if an image might be fake is using Google Reverse Image Search. That way you can identify where the image originally came from.

The Future of Misinformation

  • The technology of deep fakes is getting better, and it may be very hard to distinguish fiction from reality.
  • On the other hand, there’s also a lot more advances in technology that are making it easier to detect misinformation.
  • The more people become aware of what misinformation is and the best practices of how to recognise it, the better we will become at stopping the spread.

I think these are a great set of guidelines. If you want to go and watch the videos yourself, they’re all available on iPlayer!

More information

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Young Scot supports young people to share their own voices, views and opinions and works with partner organisations and professionals who are experts in different topics. The views expressed in this blog are those of the young people, organisations and/or individuals who have taken part in the blog, not necessarily the views of Young Scot.