Evaluating Information in the Post-truth Era
Hong Kong Baptist University December 19, 2019
A Post-truth Era
• “Post-truth” is the 2016 International Word of
the Year by Oxford Dictionaries
• Post-truth is the circumstance in which
objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief
• Information overload
• Misinformation and fake news spread around
Rumor and Propaganda in History
• Neither false news, hidden advertising or hate speech were invented in our time.
• What is new is the scope and therefore the
danger these forces represent.
New Ecosystem of the Media and Information Environment
• Power shift: everyone is a prosumer
• Mobile phone: convenient for photo and video taking/ immediacy
• Social media & Instant Messaging: Affordances
• Persistence: the durability of expression and content
• Spreadability/ sharable
• Echo Chamber Effect (迴音室/同溫層效應)
• Advanced digital technologies
– AI: with the help of bots (e.g.,Twitter bots) – Click farms
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLYRb6VECbo – Network propaganda (2016 US Presidential Election )
• Spin Doctor(政治化粧師)
– Donald Trump: Alternative fact (語言偽術)
Truth vs. Post-Truth
(by Clement So)
Facts Beliefs, emotions
Based on reality Unrestrained construction of reality
Science as basis Politics, vested interests
Objectivity as criteria Subjectivity, biased
Accuracy Mis-information, sensationalism
Mindset ( 處理資訊的心態)
• The Crisis of Trust
– The spread of digital technology, creating vast data trails with the latent potential to contradict public statements
– Too much information, too many controversies
– Digital technologies facilitate spread of conspiracy theories – An increasing skeptical citizenry
– Do not trust the government, journalists & professionals – Everyone has their own truth-tellers
– Questions of where to look, what to focus on and who to trust are ones that we increasingly seek to answer for ourselves, without the help of intermediaries
– Charge of bias not my perspective
• Value-driven Mindset
– Post-truth society: emotion > fact
Predisposition/ value takes over reality check (立場先行；雄辯勝事實)
– Endorse like-minded peers’ information (撐同溫層資訊) – Criticize/attack opposing views
• Fox TV Station criticizes CNN
Evaluating Skills for News and
1. News and Information Source
• Real or Fake?
The news sources
• Anonymous source?
• Government source?
• Reliable source?
– From unfamiliar organization, check their “about section to learn more
• A friend?
– Ask for your friend’s source
Understanding the background of the news organization
• Elite newspapers
• Popular newspapers
• Internet newspapers
• Free newspapers
• TV stations
• Radio stations
• Political stand
• Marketing approach
Select good news media
• What is a good news media organization?
– Play the role of public sphere and help to formulate public opinion
– Implement the social functions of news media – Professional production and presentation
with taste (專業及有品味的表達方式)
• Truth, objectivity, fair and justice, not sensational, good tase
Comparing different information sources
• Traditional newspaper
• TV & radio
• Online media (網媒)
• Citizen journalism (公民新聞)
• Bloggers (博客)
• Social media and apps (最多假消息？)
• What is the source?
• If it is marked as “fact checked,” is there any supporting evidence?
• If it is stated as “reported by news media”
(新聞有報), any news link? You should check the official news site.
• If there is a link provided, check the link. The information may come from a content farm or unknown website.
3. Assess the Content and Look for Comprehensiveness & Bias
Comparing the news angles;
Separating opinions from facts
• How the story was told in different ways
Who’s Point of View
• What is the argument? What is the evidence?
The public opinion poll
Who conducts the poll?
How to evaluate it?
The name of the sponsor/ the name of the researcher
Purpose of the study
Dates of fieldwork
Universe or population to
which the results of the survey are projected
Method by which the sample was selected
Response rate of the survey
Precision of the findings;
estimates of sampling error
4. Seeing is not Believing
• Easy to change a photo
• French cave rescue years ago, not Thailand
Verifying the photos
Online tools that help to verify the authenticity of a photo:
Google Search by Image
How to Use Google Reverse Image Search to Fact Check Images
• Live broadcasting on TV and websites
Tips for spotting false news (by Facebook)
• Be skeptical of headlines
• Look closely at the URL
• Investigate the source
• Watch for unusual formatting
• Consider the photos
• Inspect the dates
• Check the evidence
• Look at other reports
• Is the story a joke?
• Some stories are intentionally false
The Importance of Fact Check
• 「請廣傳」、「一手料」、已 fact Checked
Fact Check Tips
眾新聞 訪問 求驗傳媒
• 第一，把內文、人名、關鍵字在各平台搜查一下，包括 Google、Facebook及百度等，在關鍵字前後加上「 ”」
，並善用以圖片搜索（reverse image search）、限制搜 索日期等功能，都會有助找到線索。
Mindsets and Information
Why you think you’re right, even when you’re wrong?
Soldier mindset VS Scout mindset
• Combat Soldier:
– Regardless of your time and place – Your adrenaline is elevated
– Your actions stem from your deeply ingrained reflexes
– Reflexes that are rooted in a need to protect
yourself and your side, and to defeat the enemy
– Your job is not to attack or defend – It is to understand
– You are the one going out, mapping the terrain, identifying potential obstacles
– Wants to know what is really out there as accurately as possible
Motivated Reasoning: Combat Soldier Mindset
• A phenomenon in which our unconscious
motivations, desires and fears shape the way we interpret information.
• Some pieces of information feel like our allies
– we want them to win; we want to defend them
• Other information are the enemy
– We want to shoot them down
• The drive not to make one idea win and another lose
• Attempt to see the facts and evidence as objectively as you can
• To see what is there as honestly and accurately as you can even if it is not pretty, convenient or pleasant
• To cut through one’s own prejudices, biases and motivations
• They are less likely to say that someone who changes his mind seems weak
• Their self-worth as a person isn’t tied to how right or wrong they are about any particular topic
If we really want to improve our judgment as individual …
To use scout mindset
• To learn how to feel proud instead of ashamed when we notice we might have been wrong
• To learn how to feel intrigued instead of
defensive when we encounter some information that contradicts our beliefs
• What do you most yearn for?
– To defend your own beliefs or to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?
Guiding the Students
1. Understanding How Misinformation Spreads
• The impact of the technologies
• Social media & Apps
• Lack of Fact check
• The impact of Misinformation
2. Nurturing Three Thinking Skills
• Critical Thinking Skill
– Fact check
• Reflective Thinking Skill
– Understand the pre-disposition of oneself
– Adopt the correct mindset for information processing, be open-minded
– Be aware of the consequence of sharing – Avoid echo chamber effect
• Positive Thinking Skill
– Passion & compassion – Public good
3. Value Education
• Value education can support information interpretation
• The right judgment
4. Doing Exercise
• How social media shape our relationship to and understanding of breaking news events?
– How do we know if information shared on social media is credible?
– What is the relationship between social media and the practice of quality journalism.
• Find out cases of fake news
– Evaluate the cases
– Discuss the impact of the fake news