More Good News from Web Summit

Web summit panel

Dealing with “fake news” is a challenge for all of us due to the last four years of people in power blatantly telling untruths. Sadly, in regions like Ontario and others, the response to COVID-19 has equally been marred by people in power denying reality. This information environment makes it challenging for journalists to disseminate well-researched and variable information. Today at Web Summit a panel addressed these issues and argued that all of us need to expand our exposure to varied news sources while increasing our critical thinking skills.

This year, news has stepped into the light as a global force for good, communicating the message on how we can stop spreading Covid-19. The fight against fake news has taken on fresh significance in these trying times, but are we winning it?

Another noteworthy presentation looked into the use of hydrogen in the aviation industry. A somewhat secretive startup, Universal Hydrogen, plans to provide the fuel and more to the future of air travel. Of course, the problem with hydrogen is scalability – let’s hope they solve that! They argue that due to the energy requirements for flight that hydrogen is the best solution for decarbonizing the aviation industry (to be clear, they are focussing on large planes not smaller planes which can be fully electric). With the reduction in costs of renewable energy it means that hydrogen production can now happen in a carbon neutral way.

People Who Trust News Sources More Likely to Identify Fake News

Argument analysis flowchart
Figure 1 from Cook, Ellerton, and Kinkead 2018. CC BY 3.0

A recent survey to find out who is susceptible to “fake news” found that people who hate the media were more likely to misidentify misleading information. The research studied a few thousand individuals in the USA about their thoughts on news sources and their education. In an ironic twist those that believe in fake news couldn’t identify what was fake. The findings of the research found that higher education and older age both were factors in being able to find the fake headlines.

That divide — a positive or negative reaction to “news” — mapped onto a number of other elements the researchers surveyed.

For instance, people were given three at least somewhat plausible headlines and ledes that might appear in their local newspaper. Two were real; one was fake. Those with positive attitudes fared better in figuring out which was which. In Kansas City, 82 percent of the half-glass-full types figured out which was fake, versus only 69 percent of the half-glass-empties. (The fake headline? “New study: Nearly half the nation’s scientists now reject evolution.”)

Read more.

Ways to Better Avoid Fake News

Argument analysis flowchart
Figure 1 from Cook, Ellerton, and Kinkead 2018. CC BY 3.0

The term fake news may new to the modern discourse but the idea is very old. Before President Trump started making up new phrases we called “fake news” we used words like lies, propaganda, and fiction. Regardless of the source of the term there are ways to protect yourself from falling prey to these efforts to destabilize your brain. A former CIA officer has provided six quick tips to help you better deal with an onslaught of lies when it seems hard to trust news sources.

Don’t Blindly Trust Sources, Assess Them

Diving into the meat of the story itself, readers should pay particular attention to the sources cited and how their background is relevant to the subject at hand.

“Intelligence analysts are careful to explain upon what they are basing their analysis, and that includes explaining the credibility of their sources,” Otis said. “If a piece is on the government, are [the journalists] citing people who worked in government 20 years ago or people who are there with first-hand experience now? Similarly, are they citing a diverse range of experiences and backgrounds, or quoting [or] citing a people who only agree with each other [or] confirm the assessment [or] the event in question?”

Read more.

Get to Know the World, and Stay Informed

How much do you know about the world? Hans Rosling, with his famous charts of global population, health and income data (and an extra-extra-long pointer), demonstrates that you have a high statistical chance of being quite wrong about what you think you know. Play along with his audience quiz — then, from Hans’ son Ola, learn 4 ways to quickly get less ignorant.

More News for Optimists

This summer I’ve been doing a lot of travelling and haven’t been updating as frequently as I usually do (sorry, but vacations are fun in the summer), in the meantime I encourage people to check out another positive source for good news: Odewire.

OdeWire presents news to inspire intelligent optimists. Our unique wire is constantly refreshed by an automated system that combines advanced semantic technology with the guidance of our editorial staff. Around the clock and around the world, OdeWire is always looking at the most authoritative news sources for stories that focus on solutions rather than problems, and on positive changes rather than negative ones. Unlike other news sources that are over-weighted with negativity, OdeWire contributes to a more balanced media diet.

Check out Odewire!

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