Main interests: blogs, social networks, new media, information security.
Even fakes are complaining about fakes these days. Fakes are a big headache for the whole world. And in Armenia, this is an even bigger problem, as at this particular point in history we are in a secret information civil war.
Considering all this, let’s try to understand what the most common kinds of fake information are and how to deal with them.
Of course, this is a brief description: the full approach involves a lot of extensive materials. However even a brief approach allows us to seriously reduce the amount of misinformation propaganda in nature.
The main sources of fakes are not few:
a. A human desire to believe in gossip. That is, without the insidious tendencies, misinformation arises on its own on the basis of the broken telephone principle.
b. Financial disinformation. There are unscrupulous internet businessmen who create sites and Facebook groups to place pure advertising and make money. These people do not hesitate to create the most distorted misinformation, so as to attract people’s attention and thus, make money.
c. The state and non-state online activity of Azerbaijan aimed at conducting an information war against Armenia and Armenians.
d. The sources of third countries, which in some capacity cooperate with state propaganda bodies of Azerbaijan and propagate information about Armenians in Armenia or in the Diaspora.
e. Turkish sources who periodically spread misinformation or propaganda materials.
f. Various Russian sources, which spread guided by information depending on the geopolitical situation.
g. In addition, it often happens that incorrect information regarding Armenia is distributed by a third-party media or other sources simply because of unspecified or incomplete news coverage.
What are the main types of “bad” information?
The obvious, outright lie. The lie and the mixture of truth with lies. Or exact information that only contains small parts of misinformation.
These are classic and understandable phenomena. There are materials which are too emotional, where opinions and facts are hard to differentiate.
There are tricks that are typical of curren times, where information is distributed across different online platforms.
Here are some of these tricks:
The creation of unknown sources.
For example, when a completely unknown website appears. Or a Facebook page, where the names of the admins are anonymous, and it’s unclear as to where they live (Facebook is already changing this point. In February the geographical location of pages’ admins will be revealed, which is already visible in a number of big pages in the Info and Ads sections).
How to deal:
In this case, it is important to always pay attention to the source. If you read the news on a website, whose address is similar to one that you already know, it already raises questions.
If the website is one you don’t know at all, try to find similar news on websites that you do know and share that particular link on social media.
By sharing the link of an unknown website, you strengthen its position. Even if you want to share the link in denial, it’ better to just take a screenshot and spread that than the link.
Websites that imitate popular newsletters.
There are some Facebook pages that use popular and exciting topics. For example, attaching Pashinyan’s picture leaves the impression among many that the author of the page has a revolutionary standpoint. It isn’t necessarily true that the admins think that way though.
In Instagram and Twitter new pages are appearing under the name of Nikol Pashinyan. Such a name is enough for people to believe that is truly his account. Even professional journalists are deceived.
For example, let’s remember how a post regarding the transportation system posted from a fake page claiming to be the Mayor of Yerevan was published in many newspapers.
How to deal:
You should always read the website carefully and make sure that it is not trying to imitate any well-known websites.
In the case of social network accounts, you should always be sure that you are reading a real person’s account by examining their previous posts and addresses.
In the case of Facebook, check the Info and Ads sections to see when the page was opened and if they have changed their name or not.
Manipulation of titles or photos.
It is well known that people in social networks often do not read the material, they only comment on the situation based off a title or photo, and, at best, read the smallest portion of the text.
This allows for influencing the public with manipulating titles.
How to deal:
Make an opinion about important events, only if you read the entire material. It is preferable to read about the same topic from a few sources so you can formulate a more accurate and complete opinion.
Providing incomplete information regarding the case.
Often, the concealment of a small part and ignoring an unwanted segment dramatically changes people’s perception.
How to deal:
Again, we come to the same conclusion, important events require information from a few sources.
In fact, the types of manipulative information are much more. Therefore, 100% protection doesn’t exist. But summarizing what has already been said we can do a few things:
- Select 3-5 newsgroups you trust and verify each important piece of information through them.
- Follow newsgroups and industry professionals in social networks that you trust, and also verify what they say.
- Try to differentiate any kind of opinion from verified facts.
- Do not distribute unverified information, as you will become a participant.
- Do not allow emotions to drown out logic.
Following these guidelines will help to eliminate the bulk of misinformation and propaganda. But to get more information, you need additional knowledge.
The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.