What is news? How to tell the difference between what’s real and fake

Thanks to President Trump, the term ‘fake news’ is as common today as the term ‘news’. What’s even more alarming is people’s inability to distinguish what’s real from what’s fake… or even what’s satire.

One great example is the number of people that continue to think that The Onion is a legitimate news site. The Onion is a satirical news site that publishes made up stories, based on real world events. For example, one of their recent headlines reads,

           “FEMA Airdrops Emergency Cyanide Pills For Residents Stranded By Hurricane Florence.”

Suffice to say that ain’t true folks. You can also check out The Onion for yourself here (it’s well worth it).

Another way to clearly see that people struggle with the distinction between reality and fakery is on Twitter. Now, if you’ve spent any time involved in crypto, you’ll know that ‘Crypto Twitter’ is rife with misinformation and fakery.

But normal Twitter is equally as bad. For instance, a well-known British ‘celebrity’ sent out a tweet recently with a GIF of a passenger aeroplane doing a 360 on landing.

It’s puzzling how anyone could think that this is legitimate. It’s not hard to find the GIF/video I’m talking about either. Apparently this GIF has been doing the rounds, and according to the Daily Star, this video has fooled millions of people online.

When you see it you’ll be amazed that people could think it’s real. But the point here is that, depending on the name of the source, people will believe just about anything that’s posted online.

And that’s a terrifying concept – particularly for an industry that’s incredibly misunderstood, like crypto.

The New York Times also recently weighed into this problem with a pictorial showing a series of similar Facebook posts. These posts compared a legitimate post from a legitimate group with fake posts designed for propaganda and influencing purposes.

These kinds of instances across social platforms, and even real news outlets, are becoming alarmingly common. And for the average consumer of news and information, how are you ever supposed to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s fake?

More so, when it comes to information put into the public domain with regards to crypto developments, how are you supposed to believe anything?

The reality is that there’s a massive amount of information flow designed to influence your behaviours. There is a huge number of experts, advisors, gurus, ‘Blockchain Experts’ on LinkedIn and influencers that are intentionally trying to get you to behave a particular way. Often in a way that solely benefits them and not you.

The difficulty you face is how to understand what you should and shouldn’t believe. In fact, how are you even supposed to believe someone like me is telling you the truth or if I’m flat-out lying to you?

One of the most effective ways to determine what’s real and what’s not is to fact-check and dive deep into every piece of information you get. Even from me!

The internet is a dangerous place if you’re only referencing one source. You’re relying on that source to be 100% accurate with the information they provide. Good luck with that.

The more effective way to filter out the truth is to seek out multiple sources for your info. It’s a good, old-fashioned deep dive. It’s something I’m used to doing, because that’s my day-to-day job.

I dive deep into crypto projects, public companies, research, scientific breakthroughs, you name it; and I’m there digging levels deep to find out what’s real and what’s merely an extension of the truth.

This means finding information from the outset that’s relevant. Then finding out where that information came from.

For example, a nice easy way would be a situation like a publicly listed company; say, a stock listed on the London Stock Exchange. You might read in a financial publication that Company X has struck a deal with Company Y and that it’s going to be worth £10 million.

Now most people just take that information at face value. In my view, that’s an error. Just taking one step further isn’t hard, and it then validates said information. You would simply go to LSE’s announcements feed or the company’s public announcements to verify the info.

And because companies like this are covered by strict reporting regulations, you know when you get it coming straight from the company that it’s legit. Most people won’t go even that one step further.

But I can tell you first-hand that the misreporting by ‘news’ outlets, even on something as basic as company announcements, is pretty common. They manipulate the facts. They reword paragraphs out of context to suit their own narrative.

And it’s this rise in opinion pieces positioned as fact that’s also distorting what you can and can’t believe. This is yet another systemic problem with social media and everyone’s ability to have a voice.

Just because someone has a voice and can write or say what they want does not automatically convey authority. And it’s also worth noting that authority also doesn’t always confirm validity. Just because he’s President Trump, doesn’t make him always correct.

Still, even with this considered, how are you supposed to figure out what’s legit and what’s not? And surely we don’t expect you to have to fact-check and deep-dive into every bit of information you consume.

Even more, how are you supposed to discern with the thousands of crypto out there and the myriad of ICOs launching every day what’s real, fake, a scam, legit, or a sustainable project?

One great way of helping to distinguish what’s a great project from the rubbish is to set a framework for analysis. That might involve looking at the technical aspects, the tokenomics, the team and their experience – but perhaps most of all one of the most crucial aspects to a quality project is the business model. How will they ‘keep the lights on’? How will they generate revenues via fiat or crypto to pay the team, expand the operation, to become something of size and scale and significance?

Of course this deep dive isn’t possible for everyone. Most people don’t have the time to do that. It’s why building your own list of credible sources is vital. But only add someone to your recommended reading list after prolonged, sustained, credible content.

Following someone or listening to them because they stand next to a Lambo in an Instagram post is absurd. But it happens. There’s nothing wrong with following that person if they’ve created a backlog of in-depth content exploring bigger issues and providing detailed analyses of their ideas over a sustained period of time.

You also want to find those who go beyond the screen. Those who are out there at events, conferences, and meetings on the inside of this world to see and get information first-hand.

If they then still go ‘full Lambo’, then good on them. But if your best info comes from those with a track record of content no longer than a bee’s appendage, then steer clear.

It becomes clear very quickly who’s spitting BS to you online and who’s capable of providing a more in-depth analysis. Build that list of quality content providers – take your time with it. Cultivate it over a period of months, even years.

That’s the only way you’ll find legitimate insight into what’s real in this crazy world and what’s utter nonsense. Importantly, make sure you follow and get content from differing views.

Not everyone is right 100% of the time. But if your sources are diverse enough, you’ll find that you’ll begin to formulate your own views and opinions based on your own knowledge – and it’ll be well-put together because you’ve been able to avoid the noise and the nonsense.

And remember, where you can, try going directly to the source to verify information. If it doesn’t come from the originator, then you simply can’t take what you read as gospel. End of story.


Written by LIFElabs Adviser & Friend, Sam Volkering 

One thought on “What is news? How to tell the difference between what’s real and fake

  • November 6, 2018 at 8:07 PM

    Well written.

    Gogo LIFE!


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