Will we ever be rid of misinformation?

I don’t believe that we will ever be rid of misinformation since it has been around since the invention of print over 500 years ago. According to Politico, it is verified news that is verified and objective news that has been around for a much shorter period of time.

Misinformation succeeds for multiple reasons and one of those reasons is due to technology. It is very easy to share something online whether that is forwarding an email or clicking the “share” button, the misinformation is spread quickly and has a far reach. Messages that elicit an emotional reaction are more likely to be shared with others, regardless of if the information has been verified or not because the sharer believed the false information since they were relying on emotion. Readers need to use their critical thinking skills when engaging with content. By using critical thinking, readers can better identify information that is false, and according to a comment by the 2018 Provost of The University of Washington, regarding students, but can be applied to anyone, critical thinking is necessary for all areas of life.

On social media, the platforms are incentivized to encourage people to engage with their content. When people engage with content, the platform is gathering data to sell to other companies so that tailored ads can be targeted to people. Social media platforms are profiting from advertising and that is why they need to encourage user engagement.

According to an NPR interview about what it takes to combat misinformation, another reason why misinformation succeeds is because of a lack of trust in the media and government. Many people have been raised to not trust certain organizations. The interview shared that if trust already hasn’t been established in certain organizations, then people are not going to listen to those organizations during tumultuous times, like during a crisis.

We can use technology to help manage stopping or slowing the spread of misinformation. It was announced in 2021 that Twitter was working on a “Leave this conversation” option. I think that this can be useful when someone has been part of the conversation that causes an emotional reaction to content, especially if the content shared, is going to cause others to have a negative emotional response.

We need people to be able to spot misinformation, but our goal should also be to educate people about how and why misinformation is spread. Similar to what was stated in the NRP podcast, education needs to start at a young age. Another goal is to build the trust that people have in media. They need to be reassured that the reporting is factual.

“The crisis in Ukraine will test the world’s newsrooms to steer clear of grandstanding, avoid nationalism, prize reporting on the ground, and limit what we say to what we know.”

Kyle Pope, Columbia Journalism Review editor in chief

To help establish this trust, journalists should be reporting communities or issues that they are knowledgeable about. This will help create a trusting relationship with the public. A photojournalist, Brendan Hoffman, has been living in Ukraine for over 5 years and is reporting on the war that is occurring. This is an example of a journalist that is familiar with the community that he is reporting on.

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