How to Analyze and Investigate Claims
In this blog post, we will learn how to combat misinformation by using techniques used for evaluating, analyzing, and investigating misinformation to verify its validity.
Star-shaped grapes from Japan.
Before we begin to evaluate, we must find a claim that seems skeptical. While scrolling through Facebook, I found this post claiming there are star-shaped grapes from Japan. I have never heard of such a thing and wanted to know if it was true. My first inclination was that since I had never heard of differently shaped grapes before, it can’t be real or true. However, this line of thinking is basically the opposite of the illusory truth effect. Since I have never heard of this information before, I am more skeptical of its validity. If I had heard about star-shaped grapes multiple times before seeing this image, I would not have second guessed the claim. The evidence of my skepticism proves the illusory truth effect.
Using the SIFT method:
S – STOP
Before going any further and reposting or sharing this post, I first need to stop and pause before making any actions or assumptions.
I – INVESTIGATE THE SOURCE
After taking a moment to stop and think, we move to the second step in the SIFT method by investigating the source. There are major red flags that jumped out at me when I began to investigate the source. Looking at this post, I noticed that it was not posted by a known or credible platform. The source was an entertainment website entitled The Shake Ups.
F – FIND BETTER COVERAGE
The next step in the SIFT method is to find better coverage. This is where we located other sources that maybe have less bias, more credible, and more trustworthy information on the topic being analyzed. By looking for better coverage, we hope to gain a second opinion with another perspective in hopes of validating or denying the original claim. After a quick google search of “are there star shaped grapes”, we notice that there are no other credible sources verifying or denying the information.
This brings up some skepticism and also argues that this claim is false since the information is scarce. The google search brings up the same facebook post but posted from the Ghibli Community. Additionally, there is a TikTok under the Google search that shows a video of someone editing a normal picture of grapes to look star shaped. The TikTok claimed that this image was photoshopped.
I then turned to looking at Wikipedia, which is something our learning materials encouraged us to do, to verify if there is such a thing as a star shaped grape. When identifying the different varieties of grapes, there was nothing in the article that suggested something even close to a star shaped grape.
There are no sources that verify the claim made in the post, only sources that debunk the claim.
T – TRACE CLAIMS QUOTES & MEDIA TO THE ORIGINAL CONTEXT
The final step of the SIFT method is to trace the claims back to the original source. In this case, the information that I saw on Facebook was a repost of a post that The Ghibli Community originally posted. Looking deeper, we notice that The Ghibli Community is a fan page account. This knowledge heightens my suspicions even more that the information is indeed false.
Additionally, I use lateral reading to verify even more what I was reading by expanding my search laterally to involve multiple different sources.
After using the SIFT method as well as some other techniques to verify information, we can conclude that there is no such thing as a star shaped grape and that the images were photoshopped.
This claim is false.
When presented with any sort of information or claim online, it is always best to take a second before assuming or sharing and look deeper into the information’s source. Ask yourself questions that challenge your personal preconceived beliefs about the topic. Use the SIFT method to find better coverage and trace the information back to the original source so that you can understand the claim from the original context.
Using the SIFT method helps to identify true information and not be mislead by false claims. Additionally, when you take the time to fact check the information, you are combating the illusory truth effect, which typically, feeds off of your own preconceived personal beliefs.
Information, specifically misinformation, varies in its form. In chapter 8 of the book Social Media and Democracy, Chloe Wittenberg states, “Misinformation is characterized by a lack of conclusive evidence to support a particular position, whereas, in others, it involves statements that run counter to mainstream consensus or expert opinion.” By looking deeper and evaluating the misinformation through multiple different views, we can combat the effects misinformation has over us. Additionally, we learned that as humans we process learning through both emotions and cognitive knowledge. Now, according to the trust 10, “Nearly 6 in 10 say their default tendency is to distrust something until they see evidence it is trustworthy.” This makes the distrust of information our default emotion. This skepticism is not a bad thing, but it should drive us towards proactively learning and implementing how to analyze, evaluate, and investigate claims that we read about online. Ultimately, providing us with the opportunity to combat misinformation and take a step back before we blindingly share false information online. Together we can slow the spread of misinformation, if we each do our part.