There is roughly a total of 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being uploaded each day. This is roughly equivalent to 250,000 times the number of books in an average national library.
Flood of information on the internet today makes verification of all claims coming your way realistically impossible.
However, checking claims from unfamiliar sources, especially when they provoke negative or positive reactions, is one of the crucial duties of a fact-checking journalist.
Below are some of the most important tools and tactics to help you verify claims so as to blunt the effect of spreading misinformation on your platform.
This is the basic form and first stage of the verification processes. It simply means comparing the information you come across with other similar information about the same topic from different sources to ensure they correspond to each other.
Cross-checking includes online and offline searches and knowing the limits of the searches. If you are using search engines, remember there are information that pop up on the first page but are not necessarily the information you need.
Note that Google searches are guided by algorithms and they sometimes include sponsored answers. Always, don’t limit your searches to the first pages. Go to the next and find reliable information to compare with what you already have.
In lateral reading, a fact-checking journalist is required to look at other sites that link to the site under examination to know if they are reliable or confirm the claim you come across.
The best example of where to apply lateral reading is in Wikipedia articles. Although the free encyclopaedia ensures that contributors (called editors) are strictly unbiased, following the hyperlinks to read from external references will make you verify the information you read.
Some websites don’t take readers to the original source, but take to another secondary source. A fact-checking journalist should follow the source until he reaches to the first and primary source of the information. Finding the first source will give you an insight on the expertise of its publishers.
Check for Plagiarism
Some of the stories you come across get republished after a year or two and get recycled on social media. The simple way to get how old the piece of information on the internet is to look at its publication date. You can also look around other sites to see if similar information was published elsewhere.
Some websites are also new or change to new looks, but the Internet Archives like archive.org has a WayBack Machine that can help you know exactly how the sites used to be. The other website like Whois.icann.org is there to let you know when exactly the site was hosted.
These are all there to help you know if any information was plagiarised from other websites and republished in another time.
Check for Statistics Abuse
Statistics are particularly abused by many people. Luckily, you can easily verify them if you ask some critical questions. Ask yourself, is that claim too good to be true? Do they even make sense? Who is the source of the statistics? Are they really supporting the argument of the information?
Other ways to verify statistics is to review the source, read the figures laterally, find other reputable sources to check the claim and, don’t forget to understand how the methodology followed before reaching to the statistical conclusion.