There’s still a huge number of posts on social media providing spurious ‘facts’ with sources ranging from ‘Dave down the pub said’, to blindly copied Meme’s and my personal favourite Fox News reporting that the UK had just left the United Nations rather than the EU.
In those post I’m going to look at some examples of misinformation, why it matters and how you can check your sources so you don’t fall for it in the future.
Before we start, I want to make sure that everyone understands I’m not singling out any one viewpoint that I disagree with here. Whatever our views it’s important that we make sure that we know where the information we’re reading is coming from, what the writers bias is, the context of the information and the actual source.
I’m going to write a separate post on bias later but I just wanted to cover a few of the more humorous instances of misinformation being mistaken for the truth, whether intentionally or by mistake.
UK Votes to leave UN
This has got to be one of my favourite recent stories and makes the point beautifully about checking your sources. Fox News, for those of you that aren’t familiar, is one of the big three news channels in the US so you’d hope that they would be a reliable well researched news source, your hopes would be misplaced.
On the morning of the UK’s EU Referendum result Fox was running with a breaking news banner telling it’s viewers that the UK had just left the UN. Now everyone makes mistakes, we’re all human, but millions of American use Fox News as their primary news source and this is far from an isolated incident and Fox are really bad at correcting them. BuzzFeed, Politifact and others have already a great job of listing out examples so if you’d like more.
BSE Instance/Vote Leave comparison map
The map above purporting to show the correlation between areas affected by the 1992 BSE outbreak and the areas that voted Leave in the EU referendum was shared extensively across social media. It was of course not even close to being true, it’s just an edited version of the referendum results map and was probably initially intended as a joke.
I wouldn’t fall for something like this
Well quite a number of news agencies have, lazy reporting has led to a number of satirical news sites, like the Onion, being used as the basis for news stories on a range of news media outlets.
Rather than list them all here you can read about a selection of them at the Daily Beast where they list a few of the most embarrassing ones.
Why does it matter?
Some of these cases are just funny but there can be serious consequences when news agencies make mistakes, report incorrect information or skew the facts to suit their narrative. Misinformation can be used to increase polarisation of opinion on key issues for political gain and cause tension between communities.
Misinformation can be very damaging and can lead to you to misunderstanding facts and making life changing decisions based on them.
It’s important to check your sources, if you read something that seems too strange to be true it probably is, so it’s always worth researching the story in another news outlet with a different political view or, if the story is about statistics or something happening in a particular area, you can usually find information easily from independent sources.
We’ll be writing a few more detailed posts on specific examples and the editorial bias of major news agencies over the coming weeks and if you have any facts or stories you’d like us to check and use as the basis for a post please let us know.
What do you think?
If you have some better examples you’d like to share, think we have it wrong or have suggestions for another post please let us know in the comments section below.
While writing this post I referred to some of the following sites, I’d recommend having a read yourself if you get a chance. I’ve also included a link to a few places you can check facts yourself.
- iNews – It wasn’t mad cow disease that made people vote for Brexit
- Fooled by ‘The Onion’: 9 Most Embarrassing Fails – The Daily Beast
- Mad Out Disease – Snope
- The truth about the map comparing Brexit and mad cow disease – Indy 100
- The Onion
- Office for National Statistics ONS
- The Bank of England
- Statistics – Gov.uk