MOTAT’s Guide to Staying Safe Online

MOTAT’s Guide to Information Literacy

Knowing what is and isn’t true online is really important! It’s becoming more and more difficult for people to tell the difference between real and fake and so it’s essential that we take the time to learn the difference. People are often making bad decisions and spreading harmful information because they are not careful online. If we know how people are tricked then we stand a better chance of not being tricked ourselves! In this workshop you will learn about 8 types of misinformation and then do a social media self check-up.

Examples of misinformation and ‘fake news’ causing dangerous actions can be found here, here, and here.

What is wrong with this photo?

It is a Hoax!

Hoax means humorous or mean deception.

Some of the pictures and articles that you see online have been tampered with in order to mislead you, provoke a reaction, and/or go viral. If you are in doubt, find the image on google, right click it, and do a ‘google image search’ to see if the image is real or not. The search should bring up articles about it that can provide more clues.

The shark is fake! It has have added to pictures after it was taken in order to trick people and go viral.

Question to ask: Who first posted this? Are they a reliable source?

What is wrong with this photo?

It is Manipulated Content!

Manipulated content takes something real and changes it to spark controversy and trick people

Some images are easy for trolls to alter in order to say something different. This is particularly true of signs and t-shirts. You should be wary of these pictures online, especially if they are political or controversial.

Can you tell the difference between real and fake? Sometimes the picture itself gives you clues. The bit that has changed will often look slightly off if you take the time to actually look at it. Look for weird shadows, that usually a good indication a photo has been changed.

Here is the original photo

Ways to check: Right click images and do a Google Image Search. How do the results inform your decisions on the photos authenticity?

Whats wrong with Twitter post?

It gives false context!

False context takes something that is true and uses it to say something different. Here is why this post should raise some red flags!

  • Twitter handle may suggest anti-China bias
  • The incorrect spelling of ‘Virus’
  • Incorrect information about the number of countries in the world. It is also worth checking the number of people who fly out of Wuhan (Side Note – Where could you verify correct information?)

Some pictures seem like they are true, but are actually misleading. This particular image actually shows the whole world’s air travel, not just Wuhan air travel. Check for questionable facts and read other sources to verify what you are seeing. For example, this post states that people have arrived in 382 countries but there are only 195 countries in the world!

Things to check: What else has this person posted? Do they have an agenda? Do they display a bias?

How might these social media posts be misleading?

It’s sponsored content!

Sponsored content are posts that have been paid for by companies. Sometimes they are labelled #ad or #spon and sometimes they are not.

Look for packages that are conveniently placed so that you can see the full label. These have been staged so that followers know exactly what is being sold.

While these posts aren’t necessarily fake, it is worth noting that celebrities are paid to endorse these products. I’m not sure if the Kardashians would normally eat fried chicken or not, but they are paid millions to do so on Instagram! Sponsored content like this can sometimes give you a one sided view about the products they advertise.

Question to ask: Who is going to profit from this post?

How might these pictures be misleading?

They are Propaganda!

Propaganda is information that is misleading. The most negative propaganda criticises and demeans specific people or groups of people.

Propaganda has been around for a very long time. It looks to give you misleading information that promotes one point of view. Watch out for images that spark strong emotions such as anger, fear, and curiosity as warning signs that you might be viewing propaganda.

Check the ‘About us’ section of a website or user. Who do they support? What is their agenda?

How does this meme make you feel?

It is Satire

Satire uses comedy and sarcasm to expose or criticize others, particularly politicians.

Satire plays an important part in society as it helps us to think about issues from different perspectives and questions leaders that need to be kept accountable. Some memes can be harmful because they shake your trust in society and try to make people angry.

Check how you feel: Does this make you angry? Sad? Scared? These are red flags for propaganda.

What is wrong with these pictures?

They are Fabricated Content!

Fabricated content is made up of pictures, ads, and posts that show something that does not actually exist. Sometimes it is obvious but often it is not and is made to trick you.

This content has no basis in reality whatsoever. Fortunately, Nesquik never did release broccoli milk and you cannot find Ramen flavored Oreos. If something you see seems ridiculous, then there is a good chance that it is!

Use fact checking websites such as opensecrets.org, factcheck.or or Snopes

What is the difference between these two pictures?

Imposter Content!

Barack Obama on the left is real. Obama on the right is fake.

Imposter content is very realistic pictures or videos that has been created to show someone doing or saying something that did not happen.

As computer animation becomes more powerful, it will become easier and easier to create convincing fakes of celebrities and politicians and make them say and do whatever you want. It’s important we are aware of this so that we aren’t tricked into thinking important people said something they didn’t.

Look for: Unusual URLs, spelling mistakes, or words in all caps.

Social Media Check Up – Activity

It’s time for you to check your social media habits! Ask yourself these questions to make sure you are getting a well rounded picture of current events.

  1. Where do you get most of your information?
  2. What platforms do you use most and why? 
  3. Pick one of the following topics and search it on your favourite social media platform. What do you know now that you didn’t before?
  • Covid-19 vaccinations or vaccinations in general 
  • Covid-19 cures
  • Covid-19 tests
  • Covid-19 prevention
  1. After that, do a google search of the same subject. What do you know now that you didn’t before?
  2. Finally, search the subject in a standards based news outlet such as The Associated Press, The New Zealand Herald, BBC, The New York Times, or Reuters Are there any new facts that you learnt about your subject

Social Media Self Audit – Activity

Make a list of the people and organisations you follow. 

Break it into categories of celebrities, family, friends, etc. Where do you get most of your information?

Follow some of these New Zealand Journalists; Kirsty Johnston, Henry Cooke, Thomas Coughlan, Jared Savage, Michael Morrah, Matt Nippert, Rebecca Macfie.

Check back in two weeks. Has your understanding of current events changed?