In the Digital Age, knowledge has never been so accessible. Unfortunately, with this accessibility comes an inherent risk of misinformation. This is rarely more evident than with cryptocurrency, where events are always changing and new developments are constantly being made.
It’s more important than ever to understand what you're investing in and to keep up with what’s going on. With all the misinformation out there though, is this really possible? How can anyone — especially those entering crypto for the first time - know what to believe?
Step 1: Check the source’s track record
Validating facts can be time-consuming and difficult, especially if you don’t have the technical know-how. It’s much easier to simply check the credibility of your source, because if they’re trustworthy they will have done that legwork for you. Reliable news sources like newspapers and magazines are held accountable by journalistic stands and regulation, but they’re not perfect. This goes double for social media, where anyone can pretty much post whatever they like. Question everything; books, articles, and websites can all be unreliable sources.
- Has the source been caught lying in the past?
- Is the source known to sensationalise aspects of the news they’re reporting on?
- What are the biases of the person or publication sharing the information?
- Is this person an expert in this topic or a related field?
- Take a look at the author’s recent social media posts; are they consistent or erratic?
- How long has the account or publication been around for? Some fake profiles have scores of followers, but are just days old.
And don’t forget: If the article or post relies on other sources to make its point, check those too!
Step 2: Does the information stack up
Sometimes it’s too difficult to gauge if a source should be taken seriously or not. If you can’t find answers to your discerning questions, there is still a lot you can tell from the style of the content alone...
- Look at the language used. Is it evasive or embellished? Are they using a lot of jargon and long words in an attempt to conceal meaning?
- Have they used vague terms like ‘recent studies show’, without backing up these claims with citations?
- What is the origin of your source's information? Is it primary or secondary? Have they quoted anonymous sources or used public, first-hand quotes? Are they being used in the right context?
- Have they backed up their assertions using primary data and research from respectable and trustworthy sources? If it’s data, is it a survey of people’s opinions or facts?
- Examine the information in context. Does it make sense given events that have happened in the past or are happening, and what other people are saying?
- Has anyone else reported on the topic or event, but from another angle?
- Have you noticed the information in the story referenced in other stories?
Step 3: Separate fact from opinion
“While Bitcoin has failed in its stated objectives, it has become a speculative investment. This is puzzling. It has no intrinsic value and is not backed by anything.” These words were published under the headline The Brutal Truth About Bitcoin. Sounds scary, right? It certainly sounds like fact because of the way that it’s been written, but the reality is this is entirely the opinion of one person.
A recent report, aptly named Truth Decay, suggests that over the last thirty years, journalism and reporting has changed considerably, noting a “shift over time between old and new media toward a more subjective form of journalism that is grounded in personal perspective and narration.”
In a polarised world, it’s harder than ever to tell fact from opinion. Just because something is presented as a fact, it doesn't mean that it is...
- Always make sure to check the article or report thoroughly. Often, that it’s an opinion piece will be concealed or written in small text.
- Has the article or report been written in the first person?
- Take a step back and consider the article in its entirety. Does it seem like someone’s idea or narrative is being advertised to you?
Step 4: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is
There’s a lot of seemingly benign misinformation on the internet, but worse than that is reports or social media posts that’s being used to actively defraud innocent people of their money. You can then apply all the techniques noted in this article to double check.
There’s been a host of fake ‘celebrity X has bought cryptocurrency’ news reports published recently that have made their way into the courts, often with the goal of defrauding you of your hard-earned money. Don’t fall for them or any others...
- You can usually tell on a surface level if something is a scam simply because if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
- If you don’t go looking for information, it can come looking for you. Phishing is a cybercrime where targets are contacted via email, telephone, or text message by someone posting as a legitimate institution to obtain confidential information from you. They’re very smart, well versed, and have an answer for virtually every question you could ask them. They know their stuff, and you should know your security.
- Whether it’s a phisherman or fake news, always resist the pressure to act immediately.
Step 5: Become a fake news vigilante, responsibly
You don’t need a Bat-signal to do something about fake news, but it’s good to be cautious if you do. Going about correcting false information requires a gentle touch, and shooting from the hip won't put truth into the light. Oftentimes, bad information starts with a nugget of truth, but is quickly exaggerated or grossly underplayed.
What to do when you get that Bat-signal feeling...
- If there is a kernel of truth, find it and address it, before dismissing the rest using good evidence to support you.
- Re-sharing the original with a comment can sometimes give bad information more exposure than you’d intended.
- Make sure to call it out when you see it shared on social media. There’s no need to get aggressive and lose friends, but it’s easy to fall for misinformation so people will usually not know they’re sharing it. Explain the problems and make sure others don’t fall prey.