Don’t fall for fake news: A guide for leaders

There is a saying in computer programming: Garbage In, Garbage out. It doesn’t matter how good a system is, if you put garbage data into it, you will get garbage out.

What you believe to be true matters. Leaders cannot make good decisions with bad information.  Unfortunately, we have all been dealing with a fake news problem and it’s getting harder to tell what is true and what isn’t.

I was asked how to tell fake news from real news. So here are some critical thinking guidelines to follow.

1)      Is the website click bait? What other headlines do they have? For instance – yeah – this might be a political story – but if the other headlines are ridiculous or there are lots of articles regarding bizarre health claims, it’s not a real news site.

2)      Look at the about section. Fake news sites are often surprisingly honest about the fact they are fake. for instance has information on how to create fake news, fake press releases. How to link to other sites that look real so it looks like your article is real.

3)      Look at the name of the person who wrote the article. See what other articles they have written. Do a google search on them. Find out if the name is a pseudonym or real.

4)      Whois search the domain name. Real news sites have real listings and don’t hide their identity.

5)      Don’t like or share articles unless you have actually read them. The headline claim isn’t always supported by the article.

6)      If it is an article opinion on another article – click through to the originating material to see if they are quoting it properly. If the click doesn’t go to another article – it’s fake. If it does, you then have the ability to read the original source material to see if the opinion is supported by actual journalism or not.

7)      If they don’t quote anyone but say someone said something – they didn’t.

8)      If they make assertions but don’t give you any evidence – it’s probably fake.

9)      If no major news outlet is covering the story – and it’s really scandalous – it probably didn’t happen. All news outlets are vying for viewership including the mainstream news outlets. They aren’t going to not cover a scandalous story if it is real. They might spin it to fit their political narrative, but they will cover it if there is evidence for it.

10)   Demand evidence. Don’t just accept a claim as real because they link through to some source material. READ the source material and find out if you agree with their conclusions. For instance, the stories regarding Hillary’s Wikileaks – were almost never supported by the actual leaked emails. It was truly amazing to see how people made up stories on really flimsy evidence.

11)   Finally – if it’s making you really upset, question whether it’s real. Click bait is designed to upset you or scare you or excite you in an extreme way so you will share it. The more outraged, upset or giddy you feel, the more likely what you just saw is click bait and not real.

If you want to learn more about reality based decision making for humanistic leaders – check out this course:

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