Spotting Fake News

October 18, 2019

Spotting fake news is a hot button topic these days, especially with a looming election and amidst an environment of sponsored and biased media outlets.  Even mainstream media, that we have relied on for decades, is spreading untruths, half-truths and downright lies.  Some of the fake news that hits our various feeds is deliberately constructed to be sensational or designed to support a position or narrative.  Some fakes news is accidental or incidental and reflects either a laziness or negligence on the part journalist who simply reruns sound bites without reference to source data.

There are many emotionally charged issues that are polarizing Canadians including vaccines, the oil patch, poverty, drug addictions and of course gender and religious issues.  It would be naïve to think that some of these issues aren’t deliberately used as click bait or to keep people segregated into oppositional groups in order to manipulate opinion on other topics or to rally support for political parties.

For instance, it is well known that the CBC, Canada’s National Broadcaster, is federally funded and strongly supported by the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party has threatened to privatize the network.  It is no wonder then that the CBC has a penchant for pitching soft balls at the Liberals and hard balls at the Conservatives.  The problem, in spotting fake news, is that people generally trust the media to reporting factual, not opinionated, information.  

Unfortunately, it is a case of “antennas up” when you are reading information of any kind and from any source – You need to ask yourself several questions; “does the report contain good data, or has it been manipulated in some manner?” “is the source generally reliable?”  “is there a narrative or political bias at source” “is someone making money by, or from, swaying opinions?”.

If you want to be well informed, listen to the story, then back check the information for yourself.  Just because someone providing information has a position of authority doesn’t mean they are telling the whole truth or are even well informed themselves.  Some media outlets have very obvious biases – others don’t, sometimes looking at online financial statements can be revealing.  Banks for instance equally sponsor both of the main political parties in Canada, and that information is available online.  Then one must ask “why?”, why do they not simply prefer one political party?  The answer is simple “lobbying”, bankers rely on friendly rules and laws that enable them to make profits – tighter regulations would impact bottom lines, both for consumers and for banks.  By funding the government of the day bankers can leverage more influence.

Some seemingly reliable organizations have back stories – the CDC for instance owns patents for vaccines and is funded in part by big pharmaceutical companies – so how much can you trust the information they make available?  You will have to decide that for yourself.  How about lenders who promise “the best rates” and “you will be approved”?  Again, do your own research, are these companies taking advantage of the poor and vulnerable or do they really live up to their claims?  Sadly, we see fake news in the insolvency industry with people being sold costly “credit rebuilding programmes” or being rooked into a costly consumer proposal by a “third party” company that feeds files to cooperating LITs.  Ask hard questions, be prepared to get up from the table and check out another company if you feel uncomfortable or uncertain that you are getting good information.