November 14, 2015

Fact-checkers Mathilde Damgé and Samuel Laurent at Le Monde’s “Décodeurs” published today a list of false rumours that spread in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Paris.

On social media we are not mere readers; we are small media outlets, sharing content that informs other people’s understanding of an event.

For this reason the most important part of their article is, in my view, near the bottom. Décodeurs shared a few tips to avoid believing and sharing misinformation in a crisis. They are required reading for journalists and readers alike. With Décodeurs’ approval, I translated them below.

1. By default, presume that information published online by a stranger is more false than it is true.

2. Prefer information shared by well-known media and identified journalists. Do not consider this condition sufficient to make the information they share true. In situations of crisis, information spreads rapidly and is often discovered to be incorrect at a later stage. It is better to wait for several media to share the same fact before considering it reliable.

3. A photo is never evidence by and in itself, especially if it originates from an unknown account. It can be old, show something different than it claims, or it may have been manipulated.

4. A basic principle is to compare: if several reliable media outlets provide the same information, there is a good chance it will prove to be true.

For more fact-checking from France, follow @decodeurs and @LibeDesintox.

For more on how online rumors spread, read Craig Silverman’s “Lies, Damn Lies and Viral Content”

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Alexios Mantzarlis joined Poynter to lead the International Fact-Checking Network in September of 2015. In this capacity he writes about and advocates for fact-checking. He…
Alexios Mantzarlis

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