Which is the Truth? An Exercise on Fact-Checking…

This is a re-publication of an article originally posted on http://mhisham.org on February 1st 2014. The article is no longer hosted there.


Looking at the headlines above, all recent stories that have been shared on Facebook and Twitter, do you ever stop to wonder how true they are?

I recall too, a recent story shared by our very own Straits Times(ST), with regards to the North Korean execution of an uncle of the current President. It was claimed that because the story was first covered by a Chinese paper with alleged loyalties to the Chinese-Communist government, that the ST journalist thought that the execution via hungry dogs was a real incident, instead of the previously reported execution via a firing squad.

The reason for this article, is to highlight the effort by the National Information Literacy Program.  In this modern era, we are constantly surrounded  by information, whether it is via the mass media or online. It is key for us to cut through the clutter and be S.U.R.E. of the information we come across.

S.U.R.E. is an acronym for 4 simple ways to check your facts:

The Anatomy of S.U.R.E

Source: Look at its origins. Is it trustworthy?

Understand: Know what you are reading. Search for clarity, look for facts rather than opinions

Research: Dig deeper. Go beyond the initial source. Investigate thoroughly before making a conclusion, check and compare with multiple sources.

Evaluate: Find the balance. Exercise fair judgement. Look from different angles – there are at least two sides to a story.

source: https://www.facebook.com/sgsure

From experience, I know it can be pretty hard to verify and cross-reference stories shared online. Especially with titles that can be very misleading or engaging. “An old lady was almost knocked down, you won’t believe what happened next.” It takes a great deal of critical mind to first doubt a story.

Recently too, a story was shared that a Norwegian village, massacred dolphins en masse, turning the sea into a bloody red mess. After that widely shared story, evidence was unearthed that it was not dolphins, rather it was whales that ventured close to the coast line that were hunted and killed, with the meat shared within the village. It was also shown that the village was located in a terrain that provides little vegetation for sustainable agriculture or farms, proving that whaling was their only alternative for the source of proteins, short of the more expensive method, which is to import meat.

For me, I make cross-references based on news off the mainstream media or sites like Snopes which is meant to dispel hoax and rumours. This is not to mean that social networking tools like Twitter are unreliable. But it is integral to verify what you come across with the 4 ways of SURE.

It would certainly be to everyone’s benefit, to take a step back and be S.U.R.E. before you share! Do check out this video below that clearly explains S.U.R.E. and join in the S.U.R.E Facebook Page to be updated on the latest activities.

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