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26/03/2020 11:47 AM

By Rozlin Rusharmeen Rosmin

KUALA LUMPUR, March 26 -- Have you ever received dubious ‘verified’ information that has been shared widely via Whatsapp or Facebook, stating that it was from another group chat, and you felt this urge to scream “Google it!” to them?

Well, you are right because that is, indeed, one of the ways to self-check any information you come across.

The situation above might have happened to anyone - your family, your neighbours or even your close friends and amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, it is inevitable for everyone to be overwhelmed by false information but fret not, keep on reading this to know the things you must take note for self-checking, hence, avoiding from falling victim to fake news. 

Recently, a fact-checking trainer from United Kingdom, FATHM founder and CEO Fergus Bell conducted a fact-checking course in Bernama and he shared several tools that could be utilized by everyone to ensure that you are not wasting your time believing and sharing false claims. 

These were Bell’s insights on how to fact-check 101: 

1. Evaluate the reliability of sources. Ask yourself if there is a track record to evaluate. 

2. Google the information. Look for fact checks and scroll down the page to verify. 

3. Spot flags, if someone has debunked the fake news or content 

4. Read the content, run a quick check. Always think before sharing. 

5. If it is an image, look up the image. For instance, run a reverse image search through ‘google image reverse’ (the tool to check image)  

6. Check the link address. To illustrate, check who owns the site whether it is suspicious through ‘who.is’ (an online tool to check website owners) 

Nonetheless, having to Google every information and going through all of the above steps might be troublesome since it takes up time, hence Kuek Ser Kuang Keng, founder of Data-N, a data journalism training programme, shared his thoughts with Bernama on this issue.

According to him, if you received a claim that raises your attention emotionally, that was already a hint that there was a huge possibility for it to be a false one. Do not fall into the trap. 

He advised that if your reaction towards the information was emotional, making you feel furious, anxious, or even joyful, take a pause for at least ten seconds to think. 

“They (those who start to share fake news) are good at playing with your (readers’) emotions. At times, people take advantage of this situation and they have their own agenda. 

“Therefore, make it a habit. Stop for ten seconds and think about it. Ask yourself this, ‘Does it make me emotional and immediately make me want to share with friends and family’? If yes then, it is a sign (of possibility for it to be fake one). Be careful,” he said adding that the lack of self-checking would lead to a bad situation and raise unnecessary alarm among the public.

Kuek Ser also raised another critical sign that should be considered when self-checking, which is audio messages from anonymous sources.

“No one knows who is behind the voice hence, always check your source. If there is no credential source, disregard it. No one is held responsible for that audio message you have received. Do not trust it and do not even think about sharing it.

“One day you received an audio message that someone in your neighbourhood is positive COVID-19. You become worried and without thinking critically, you will share it (the message) straightaway. Can you imagine how impactful it can be?” he said. 

While Malaysians are facing the current COVID-19 outbreak, this is the best time for us to do our bit and learn ways to self-check any information we receive in order to fight this global phenomenon of fake news that seems like an ‘ever-growing virus’ in our society.

In news reporting, holding on to facts is always the fundamental principle to be upheld, however, unfortunately, some people still choose to disregard that by giving more trust towards the information they received via unknown sources. 

The next time you receive a forwarded audio message in your WhatsApp family group, think again, should you waste your precious time listening to the unknown audio message and forward to another group?

Please don’t. 

-- BERNAMA

 

 

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