NEWS

Civics Today: How can I tell if my information is reliable?

A TikTok video displaying the ball 23-24 drop in Times Square going awry
video courtesy of immadsal @ TikTok
NYE 23-24 Times Square ball drop as pictured by AP News, a more reliable information source

The motto for Keizer is Pride, Spirit and Volunteerism and nothing fulfills that mandate better than participating in your city’s business. 

In an era of post-truth, or as Stephen Colbert put it, an era of truthiness, what you see or read may not always be the whole story, even if it feels like it is the truth.

Finding reliable information about politics can be strenuous. With as many resources available as stars in the sky, finding one that consistently gets it right can be a burden

When we work until we are exhausted, you want nothing more than to relax when coming home.

And in that case, doing the extra work to make sure everything you read or watch is factual is not always feasible. 

In those times, attempting to remember a few helpful tricks to finding reliable information can make all the difference when attempting to arm oneself better with knowledge.

Check out a few tips from authoritative organizations like the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure security Agency (CISA). 

Consider your source: Be sure to always check out who you are getting your information by visiting an organization or person’s website, their mission as well as their goals and contact information 

Read beyond: Some headlines are geared to grab your attention. Read beyond the headline to make sure you get the full story.

Check the author: Always research the author of a story. Are they credible? Are they even a real person?

Supporting Sources: How is the story supported? Are there links that lead to additional resources? Check to see if the information given actually supports the story. 

Check your biases: Take a moment to consider if your own beliefs could be affecting your judgment

Ask the experts: For information you are unsure about, check a fact-checking website like FactCheck.org, Reuters, Snopes or PolitiFact for an expert opinion.

Check the date: How old is the story you are reading? Old stories being re-posted has no bearing on if they are relevant to what’s going on now. 

Judge hard: If what you’re reading seems too good to be true, or too weird, or too reactionary, it probably is.

If remembering all these facts is too much you can always rely on the CRAAP system developed by California State University librarians as a tool to defend yourself against false or misleading news and information.

The system includes understanding the following about the information you are reading:

Currency: how timely is the information you are reading?

Relevance: How does this information fit into your news information needs?

Authority: What is the source of the information you are reading? 

Accuracy: Is the information you are reading reliable and correct?

Purpose: Why does this information exist?

For news reliability, it helps to check out authoritative sources such as AP, Reuters and NPR though it is still important to remain critical of all sources. 

Understanding what to look for in regards to reliable political and general information is crucial as knowing how to spot material geared towards trickery makes one less likely to fall prey to other false information in the future. 

According to CISA, the three different types of false information are: 

Misinformation: Information that is false, but not created or shared with the intention of causing harm. 

Malinformation: Information that is based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate a person, organization, or country. 

Disinformation: False information that is deliberately created to mislead, harm, or manipulate a person, social group, organization, or country.

The main difference lies in the intention behind the information.Mis-, mal- and dis-information exist in a variety of forms though the goal often remains the same, to create a false narrative around a particular subject 

A recent example can be found in a New Year’s Eve video that circulated around social media. 

A TikTok video seen by more than 7 million people, showed the ball drop in Times Square though the ordinary routine was interrupted by a series of fireworks which appeared to hit and destroy the ball. 

The video then shows a series of pictures of the ball exploding and crashing down and cuts to a group of police officers appearing in a section of an area appearing to cordon off the wreckage.

The video ends with a woman walking and describing how they left the ceremony because the ball broke 10 minutes before midnight.

A precursory glance at the associated TikTok profile displays their information with one interesting highlight: an AI expert, suggesting perhaps that videos put out by them include such digital manipulation. 

The video and the commentary in it also present factual inaccuracies about the events when compared to more reliable sources. 

Going to official sources like timessquarenyc.org or AP news shows the ball drop happening in multiple places around the world, Times Square included, and going off without an issue. 

Despite the stakes on whether or not the Times Square ball drop went off without a hitch, the potential of false information should not be taken lightly.

When dealing with matters of public health or safety, the innocuous harm done by a few fake pictures can suddenly create a tidal wave of anger, fear and paranoia. 

As American citizens, and more specifically as Keizerites, remaining engaged with the community is important, though how we do so and how informed we choose to be is within our power to control. 

Through awareness of information sources, and memorizing some handy acronyms, the efficacy each citizen brings is enhanced. 

The strength informed citizens bring to their community is multiplicative, not additive. 

Another picture of NYE 23-24 at Times Square depicting no issues with the ball drop
pictures courtesy of timessquarenyc.org

Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-105

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