The first move is to STOP. When you first hit a page or post and start to read it — STOP and ask yourself if you recognize the information source. If you don't know the source or its reputation, use the 4 moves of Fact Checkers (see below). Also stop to check your emotional response to the information.
Know what you're reading before you read it. By identifying the expertise and agenda of the source is crucial to your interpretation of what they say. Taking sixty seconds to figure out where media is from before reading will help you decide if it is worth your time, and if it is, help you to better understand its significance and trustworthiness. One simple way to do this is to look up the source in Wikipedia. What can you learn from Wikipedia about the source?
Sometimes you don’t care about the particular article or video that reaches you. You care about the claim the article is making. You want to know if it is true or false. You want to know if it represents a consensus viewpoint, or if it is the subject of much disagreement. You may want to look for trusted reporting or analysis on the claim. One strategy to do this is to search for a story on Google News. This can help find trusted sources. Another strategy is to look up claims in fact-checking websites such as Snopes.com, Politifact, Factcheck.org, Fact Checker (Washington Post), and FlackCheck.org.
Much of what we find on the internet has been stripped of context. Trace the claim, quote, or media back to the source, so you can see it in it’s original context and get a sense if the version you saw was accurately presented. So if you see something on Instagram or Twitter, trace it back to the original source to get the context. Use a reverse image search if you are working with an image. To do this, take the picture and search for it in Google Images to find its original source/context.
The 4 Moves of Fact Checkers
There are several ways to SIFT when working with online information.
If we cannot find the information we need at a fact-checking website, the next move is to go upstream. To "go upstream" means to go back to the original source of the content. When you get to the original source of the content, then evaluate it by the author, the site, and when it was updated/revised.
"FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The APPC was established by publisher and philanthropist Walter Annenberg to create a community of scholars within the University of Pennsylvania that would address public policy issues at the local, state and federal levels."
"The purpose of this website, and an accompanying column in the Sunday print edition of The Washington Post, is to “truth squad” the statements of political figures regarding issues of great importance, be they national, international or local. It’s a big world out there, and so we rely on readers to ask questions and point out statements that need to be checked."
"Headquartered at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, FlackCheck.org is the political literacy companion site to the award-winning FactCheck.org. The site provides resources designed to help viewers recognize flaws in arguments in general and political ads in particular. Video resources point out deception and incivility in political rhetoric."
"Snopes got its start in 1994, investigating urban legends, hoaxes, and folklore. Founder David Mikkelson, later joined by his wife, was publishing online before most people were connected to the internet. As demand for reliable fact checks grew, so did Snopes. Now it’s the oldest and largest fact-checking site online, widely regarded by journalists, folklorists, and readers as an invaluable research companion."