Crash course: navigating digital information (Summary)

The problem

  • Somewhere down the line, all information was produced by humans with incentives
    • There is no place where you will always find the truth
  • We are not proactive enough about the information we consume
  • The social media algorithms don’t have our best interest at heart when deciding what to show!
    • Attention = money, so they keep you on the platform by:
      • Only showing information you already agree with! (Confirmation bias)
        • Solve this issue by following people you don’t agree with!
      • Showing false information that is likely to keep your attention!
    • 50% of adults get their news through Facebook…
  • Even professors & college students can be bad at navigating digital information…

How we currently judge the quality of information…

  • The design of the website…
    • when something looks “official”
    • Looks like a news article
    • Well-designed logo
    • Professional photography
    • No grammatical errors or typos
  • We think we consume high-quality information when this is included:
    • Statistics
    • Infographics
    • References & citations (you don’t even check them)
  • Whether we’ve used it before…
  • Who showed it to us…

Solution: Lateral reading (Opening new tabs)

  • Don’t just do it when you disagree with the information! (beware of confirmation bias)
  • Seek MULTIPLE trustworthy sources when fact-checking
    • Utilize click restraint (E.g. look at the available articles before deciding which article to click)

Consider the source

  • Beware of catfishing (people pretending to be someone they aren’t)
  • Consider their authority
    • Educational or professional background
    • How they gather information
    • How they catch & fix mistakes
  • Keep their agenda into account when considering the information!
    • Maybe they want to:
      • Sell you something
      • Get your attention (because attention = money)
      • Win you over to their worldview /Political beliefs
      • Signal who they are

Who is trustworthy?

  • Trusted news organizations (But remember they could have a hidden agenda)
    • Many use people hired as fact-checkers!
    • The New York time, wall street journal & Washington post has written about their editorial standards
  • Fact-checking websites
  • Wikipedia?
    • It got a bad reputation initially because it was so easy for anyone to edit
    • It has gotten better
      • Rigorous content policies
        1. Neutral point of view
        2. Verifiability
        3. No original research
      • See notes at the top of the page, where they can warn if any of the 3 content policies were violated!
      • Administrators oversee things and can lock pages
    • A great place to start to get a birds overview of a topic
      • BUT don’t stop there! (Don’t cite them)
      • You can use them to look for sources

Consider the evidence

  • Be skeptical when there is no evidence
  • Is the sources reliable?
  • Is the evidence even relevant?
    • Spurious correlations (Correlations ≠ causation)

Evaluating photograph & video evidence

Deepfake: Can make videos look like you are somebody else!

They can frame the image:

Evaluating data as evidence

  • Flawed humans gather, interpret & present data!
  • Evaluating data visualizations:
    • Are they based on real data?
    • Is the data presented in a fair way?


  • All information is produced by humans
  • Do lateral reading (open new tabs)
    • Evaluate the source
      • Authority?
      • Hidden agenda?
    • Evaluate the evidence
      • Is it from a reliable source?
      • Is it relevant for the argument?

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