SHAYDANY URBANI helps people to identify and challenge fake news, as part of her work with the organisation First Draft. In this new episode of our How To Build Community show, she shares her tips and advice, alongside case studies of people successfully fighting fake news around the world. Listen to the episode in full, or read the highlights below.
Why challenge false information?
People today get their news and information from many different sources including the internet, social media and from friends. But not all of this information is accurate.
Shaydany explains that social media feeds often give priority to the information that people are engaging with most. This can lead to a distortion of the truth and the spread of misinformation.
‘Sometimes it means you get the information you are interested in, but sometimes it means that the content you are seeing is really just the content that is eliciting strong reactions,’ says Shaydany.
‘Nowadays, with the way that people get information, everyone has a role to play in calling out bad information and making sure that the information they are putting out in the world is not going to be harmful to someone else.’
How can we challenge false information?
Shaydany says, ‘First, make sure that you have accurate information yourself. This means taking a minute to check. If you see a piece of information that causes a strong emotional reaction, stop and think about why you are having that reaction. Also, check your sources. The closer you can get to finding the original source, the more you are going to understand the context of that information.
‘Usually people do not share misinformation maliciously - they are sharing it because they believe in it and there is something that they are concerned about. So if you can understand their concerns, then you can probably have a more productive conversation.
‘Do not be dismissive about people’s legitimate concerns. Address those concerns and then help that person with an alternative explanation.’
Why is trust important?
A belief in fake news often comes from a lack of trust in the media, politicians or businesses. It is therefore important to have a good, trusting relationship with people in order for them to listen to you, especially if you are challenging them about something they believe in.
For example, during the 2014 Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone people were continuing to touch and pray over dead bodies, even though this was one of the key ways in which the disease was spreading. When trusted religious leaders began to use verses from the Bible and the Qur’an to help teach people how to keep themselves and each other safe, more people began to follow the guidelines and the number of cases started to decrease.
You can read more about the remarkable role that faith leaders played during the Ebola outbreak here.