Information accessibility has eased considerably with the arrival of the digital age. However the ease of information accessibility and its rapid spread has brought upon polluted information. Critical thinking is quite important in the protection from information pollution.
There are a few fundamental questions to ask when analysing the validity of the presented information:
1. What is the source of information?
While researching the trustworthiness of the information, the source of it must firstly be determined. Is the source of the information a picture, an academic paper, a social media post or a known person? Determining the source of the information is vital to assess the accuracy of the information.
2. Who is behind the source?
It is important to know who the speaker is in verbal transferences and who the author is in written transferences. Is the information presenter a professor or a social media friend? It is important to learn who is sharing the information and to research the authenticity.
3. Is the information source primary or secondary?
Primary sources are from those who lived or witnessed an event. Secondary sources however, are from those who have collected information from others who lived or witnessed an event. Primary sources are more trustable than secondary sources since information errors or exclusion are less likely in primary sources.
4. What is the purpose of sharing the information?
Is the speaker or writer sharing the information for a particular reason? Is the intention to explain important events & inform people unbiased information, or spread false news and propaganda? Critical thinking is important to correctly assess the reporters intention.
5. Is the presented source influenced by prejudice?
Whatever information is being read, asking this question is essential. Hiding preconception and related thoughts is difficult. The more the presented information source is unbiased, the more trustable that source would be. Sources stating negative or positive preconception are less trustable.
6. When was the information presented?
Information presented before it happened is likely false. Similarly, information presented a long time after the occurrence is also likely to be false and contain errors. For this reason, noting the date the information was reported is essential in assessing the truthfulness of the information.
7. Who is the information targeting?
Asking this question may expose potential flaws contained in the information. Correctly assessing the target audience can help deduce the real reason why the information was presented. Also, language use and way of presentation may be shaped towards the desired audience. This also is an important clue and helps determine the target audience and resolve the reason why the information was presented.
When a new information is presented, asking these objective questions may help assess the trustworthiness of the information. Therefore, in digital sources, a critical and resolving approach towards tackling polluted information may be adopted. This approach is the fundamental skill recommended for individuals living in the digital age.
Image: shutterstock.com [Sergii Gnatiuk]