Note: The views and opinions expressed in blog/editorial posts are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the views or opinions of Misbar.
Misinformation and false news are not a new phenomenon, but current health and political conditions have made them more visible. Misinformation has always been and remains a tool that provides people with a foundation to build views, opinions, fear, and even hate. We've seen how this has led, for example, to current anti-mask and anti-vaccination movements. It also provides fodder for conspiracy theorists.
There are several definitions of misinformation, but let’s say that it is the deliberate dissemination of false information for several purposes, including societal division. The task of convincing people of the facts does not seem easy. This explains why our platform is demonized repeatedly through comments on social media websites by those who spread false information.
Earlier this year, we launched Misbar during the beginning of a huge wave of disinformation about the current COVID-19 epidemic. We were there to confront it. Our journalists and writers identify false or misleading claims on social networks and then investigate all aspects of them in order to provide readers with the well-researched truth.
In too many cases it may be difficult or nearly impossible to identify who creates these false claims and what their motives might be. Once a piece of information is uploaded to the Internet it can be copied and circulated at several stages, during which its content is modified. The trail of information disappears due to the dynamics of the Internet and social networking sites, making it difficult to identify a claim's origin.
However, many websites, social media pages and accounts, and even forms of media that constantly spread false claims can be identified easily. In such cases, the spread of misinformation is often politically motivated, or may just be a tactic to make money.
Several studies have shown that people tend to be receptive to facts. A study of Ethan Porter, Thomas J. Wood and Babak Bahador show that “32% of people who were not presented with fact-based information later expressed accurate beliefs, compared to 60% of people who were presented with fact-based information and expressed accurate beliefs.” Learning the facts doubled the accurate beliefs.
Sometimes people are skeptical about facts because they only take their information from people who think like them or have similar political views. This type of resistance to factual information can be deadly. Read: How Can Coronavirus Misinformation Actually Kill Someone?