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How to self fact check:

Section: resources
Source: Jopa - Beet Foundation
Published: 2020-07-25
From: source url

This is separated into four sections. Figuring that 90% or more of people reading this are not trying to be journalists and/or don’t have the time to go in depth. This is just a quick primer. See the entire field of online investigation for advanced information.

Part One is for people that just want to do a quick scan to test basic legitimacy of a claim, statement or fact.

Part Two will go more in depth for people that have the extra time and energy.

Part Three is some simple tips for anyone fact checking.

Part Four is some example cases.

Important Note! Before starting, hang your bias hat at the door, it will only hinder you past this point.


Part One (the quick scan):

a) We are going to skip the fact checking sites and go straight to search engines. Though we will use fact checking sites a bit if they show up in search results, not as an authority but as another reference point. Search the text or partial text of the claim/fact in question. Open any relevant sites into new browser tabs.


b) Now we look at these relevant sites, the closer to the original source of the claim/fact the better. Usually on factual claims you will find several sources in your first search. Be careful of sites that just repeat each other verbatim, often you find sites that use almost the exact same text repeating the same false claim. You want to find several different sources verifying the claim/fact or the original source of the claim/fact. Unnamed sources are unverified in almost all cases, even when 100 places echo them. The best references will have linked sources and existing facts, people, places, things, etc.


c) Just because a fact check site says true/false does not make it so, many fact checking sites have a conflict of interest and will skew results for certain issues that effect their donors/sponsors or beliefs. So it is best to verify fact checkers by using other sites also, especially with sensitive issues and it is also a good idea to know what donors/funding the fact check site has so that you know what bias they may spin.


d) OK, so you have a claim/fact and a handful of different sites confirming it or denying it, you have drilled down to the best you can find for a quick scan on the internet. If the sites all agree you are good to go, you can be pretty confident of the answer you found. If different sites you find don’t agree you may have to dig a little further and use your best judgment on which are more credible.


e) Probably most important is to be honest with yourself and others about how sure you are, if mostly sure, say that, if it is mostly false, say that. If you are unsure but it looks compelling say that. You don’t have to nail it down completely for a quick scan, just be honest of what you found.


Tip: Try searching the text of the fact in different segments, or using variants of the text. Not all sites referring to the subject will have the same exact text so you should be creative in the ways you search.



Part Two (digging deeper):

a) For those who have the time and/or want to be sure you will have to go past a quick web verification search and summon your inner investigator to drill down as far as you can. Get all of the details you can find.


b) This means, reference papers, white/yellow pages, social media profiles, reviewing lengthy audio/video records. Calling people to confirm things. Tracking down whatever leads you may find to confirm or debunk the claim/fact.


c) In a nutshell it is the same job an investigator would be doing, think investigation skill set. The full scope is beyond this article. Pull out your inner investigator and do the best you can. Find some tutorials for online investigation if you feel you need more skills.



Part 3 (bias check, references/sources/notes):

a) Keep valid links and locations of sources with notes on what is in them.


b) If countering a presumed false claim or otherwise presenting findings keep notes on presentation responses as you go.


c) Be aware of your own confirmation bias, be willing to follow contrary evidence, be willing to be proven wrong by what you find. A skeptics approach is a good thing.


d) Be aware of the bias/spin of everything you investigate. Knowing the ideology of your sources is an important part of any verification. People spin things constantly, know the spin, don’t be spun, collect the facts, verify them. Often the best evidence can be found through info/links on sites contrary to your bias.


e) Try different search engines if needed, not all search services are the same. Beyond the scope.



Part 4 (example fact checks):

Example 1:

Finding a meme saying that Canada is loading live horses onto planes to be eaten in Japan. Some comments and reactions call it a spoof.


So I search: “Canada live horses planes”, a quick scan pulls up two interesting sites. Notice no reference to eating, food or meat in my search, maybe later on a deeper dive*.



This is a well sourced article from back in June 2017 with a short video news report, many links to more information. Looks looks like animal rights and rescue bias, even when/if you agree, know the bias. Looks like one source of verification at least for a quick scan.



This site advocates against exploitation of animals and has a section about this practice in Canada.


So as a quick scan this is enough to know that the practice exists. The claim looks true and you can see that there are more leads to follow. The photo provided may or may not be headed to Japan, but that does not by itself falsify the claim.


*For a deeper dive into the issue you could check sources, follow the links in the first article, call or contact anyone you can and ask more questions, keep searching variants of the search, or more phrases you find as you go into the subject, etc.


Example 2:

Box of ear loop masks, photo of warning on box marked as partly false by facebook fact checkers.

Two fact check sites that facebook uses call this partly false. Neither question the legitimacy of the photo. Both appeal to authoritative popular media bias and say more or less that new science shows ear masks can be helpful. With some links, references, it may sound convincing at a glance.


We will start with the fact checkers.


A closer look reveals many vague statements by said experts like “People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50 percent” - Dr. Christopher Murray. Note the word “can”, sure they can, if used correctly. What if you are showing the warning label to encourage education of correct use. This shows part of the political spin.


Another vague statement on this site is “everyone should wear a face mask when going out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.” and “Your cloth face covering may protect them. Their cloth face covering may protect you.” quoted from the CDC. Lots of “may” there, this could actually be seen as negligent and encouraging people to go out and be around people more, especially of they are discouraging reading the warning on the box of how to use these masks properly.


There is plenty of science over the last decade on optimizing use of masks if you search a bit. Here is one important study into prudent mask usage which concludes a methodology more in line with the warning label on the box.



This study is the first RCT of cloth masks, and the results caution against the use of cloth masks. This is an important finding to inform occupational health and safety. Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection. Further research is needed to inform the widespread use of cloth masks globally. However, as a precautionary measure, cloth masks should not be recommended for HCWs, particularly in high-risk situations, and guidelines need to be updated.


Since the global pandemic hit there has been a flurry of new studies and media spin on the mask issue, so far none of it more convincing to me than the last decade of science that would urge caution with dependence on cloth masks and is pretty clear on when and where the different types of masks are best used. The new studies are pretty clearly politically charged and not well peer reviewed, so I defer to accepted science of the last decade before emotion and punditry took over.


Clearly the masks help some, that is not in question, the box warning is there to defer liability and inform wearers of correct use. In my opinion the conclusion is negligent and political, it can encourage frivolous mask usage which would put people at risk.


Next up is the fact check also used by facebook.


This check also mentions the questionable CDC quote above. To its credit it does make some mention of the limits. Which makes this fact check a little less negligent than the one above.


Lisa Maragakis, an expert in infection prevention at Johns Hopkins Medicine, says in an FAQ on coronavirus and masks that while cloth masks are not medical-grade, they may be helpful in nonpatient settings to “contain coughs and to remind people to not touch their face, but they are not suitable for providing medical care to patients.

Maragakis also says that while cloth masks are used to guard against the spread of COVID-19, the masks do no have a tight seal and are made of different materials.


In the conclusion fact check also fesses up that “It is true that ear loop masks do not protect the wearer from COVID-19.” then it goes on to say “But it is false to say they offer no protection.” apparently this is their rationalization.


Though some may find this reasonable, it is a matter of interpretation whether this constitutes a partly false claim for a legal warning label, likely advised by a company lawyer and I would say detouring people from reading the label, while encouraging more close contact encounters, could cause more harm, thus the political spin, either could be right, who decides what gets censored.


Without going further this looks like a politically charged current debate, where political actors are spinning the issue to suit their needs in one way or the other. The issue does not seem settled, but the fact checkers have decided.


For a hot topic that gets political, fact checkers are less dependable in my experience. But worth a look if you have discernment to decide for yourself. There are often good links to sources in the fact checker material even if you disagree with them.


Comparing some of the related science on this issue makes it clear that we will need to improve our equipment standards and availability of such to protect the population and more importantly education of best use.


Proper use of face masks is essential because improper use might increase the risk for transmission (39). Thus, education on the proper use and disposal of used face masks, including hand hygiene, is also needed.


We did not find evidence that surgical-type face masks are effective in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza transmission, either when worn by infected persons (source control) or by persons in the general community to reduce their susceptibility (Figure 2). However, as with hand hygiene, face masks might be able to reduce the transmission of other infections and therefore have value in an influenza pandemic when healthcare resources are stretched. from May 2020


Anyway it seems clear that many experts are advising last resort use for cloth masks and education on best use while some media is encouraging just use any mask, the disconnect exists, why?


I rate this issue as a matter of opinion and fishy that it is being suppressed before others can decide on their own. - Great website to learn about bias and fallacy

Section: resources
Published: 2020-07-11
From: source url

Learn about bias and fallacy at this great website. - Great website to learn about bias and fallacy

Section: resources
Published: 2020-07-11
From: source url

Learn about bias and logical fallacy with this great website.