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How can we determine the reliability of online sources?

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These days, with just a few taps on your phone or computer, you can find out virtually anything that you want to know. Thanks to technology and the Internet, sharing and accessing information has become simpler than ever. Unfortunately, this quality has turned out to be a double-edged sword. As a result of how unregulated the Internet is, spreading misinformation is a current social issue, and it not only impacts Singapore but globally as well.

Online misinformation (also known as fake news) can have serious real-world consequences. One such example would be the countless online articles or even chain text messages claiming all sorts of things related to the COVID-19 pandemic that many of us probably have come across. Without checking their legitimacy, false information, such as the pandemic being a hoax and that wearing a mask is not important, are taken as truths. In the face of such an infectious virus, having factual information ensures that everyone remains calm, safe, and healthy.

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Tackling Misinformation One Step At A Time

Subsequently, concrete actions need to be taken to battle this ‘infodemic’. To create a secure and positive online community for our members, here are 3 steps that can help you determine the reliability of online sources.

1. Ensure that the website is from a trusted organisation

For every credible website out there, there seem to be dozens more filled with misinformation. As such, the quickest way to ensure the reliability of an online source is to take it from an organisation that has a proven track record of trustworthiness. These consist of websites run by government agencies, universities, and academic journals.

2. Always check the release date of the information

Updated information is often the most accurate – especially for time-sensitive matters like the current pandemic we are in right now. Scientific and medical breakthroughs always replace older knowledge, which is why it is vital to find the most recently updated sources. This not only applies to when an online article was written but also any research that it is citing. Notably, people’s opinions on social issues can change over the years. You would be less likely to trust an online article about the effects of social media if it only references research done in the early 2000s. As such, try your best to look for articles by trusted websites that have been published recently and use up-to-date research.

3. Compare with sources from other trusted organisations

Let’s say that you are interested in visiting a new restaurant, but you are unsure of whether you’d like the food. So, you read reviews of the place to check how others enjoyed it. If most of the reviews seem positive, you may be more likely to visit the restaurant! In the same way, if various trusted online sources are saying similar things, the information is most likely to be accurate. It may be a little time-consuming to always cross-check online sources, but it goes towards ensuring that reliable information is more prominent than misinformation.

Ensuring A Safe Online Environment For Everyone

All of us deserve to know the truth and form our own opinions based on facts. While the Internet has given us the ability to learn anything we want, it has also shown us how dangerous it can be. Therefore, we should do our best to combat the spread of misinformation online. Be it through sharing trustworthy sources with our loved ones or reporting false information on social media channels, every positive action that we take contributes to creating a better online environment for everyone.

Want to be part of an online community where you can learn more about current social issues in Singapore? Join us at HappyDot.sg to take part in online surveys and quick polls!