Est Veritas?

Discerning truth online is an increasingly tricky task because fake news websites are becoming more sophisticated and users are becoming lazier. The SIFT method provides an effective way to fact check articles you find on the internet. Let’s use the example of a true and false article to illustrate how SIFT works.

The Side of Truth

I came across an article about how a Chinese Harvard student decided to stop learning English. The article explains how Tatala, a 24 year old student studying at Harvard, had recently submitted a video for an English assignment in which she resolves to stop trying to learn the English language because she feels that it is not necessary for her to have an impact on the world and it hinders her confidence when trying to do so. Did this really happen?

Stop and Investigate the Source

This article was written by Rebecca Moon and published by Nextshark, an Asian American news source that focuses on culture, entertainment and politics. Moon cited the image in her article as being from Bilibili, which is where the original video of Tatala is posted. Nextshark is not a news network itself, but a streamlined platform for other networks and creative platforms. Bilibili is a video sharing platform that was founded in 2009, and functions exactly like Youtube, the difference being that Bilibili is based in Shanghai, China. Thus, investigating the source reveals the original video itself, and its home on Bilibili and Nextshark, which are both platforms for creative content.

Find Other Coverage

This story is addressed by What’s on Weibo, another platform for Chinese memes and trends, and also Today Online, a Singapore based news provider and media broadcaster. Both of these articles tell the same story that Moon tells, with varying levels of detail, which provides more evidence that it is a true story.

Trace Claims

As mentioned above, tracing the claim that Moon makes from her Nextshark platform leads to the original video on Bilibili, and I can say having watched the original video that Moon’s report is accurate.

The Side of Falsity

The same process can be used to discern which articles on the internet are false. The Onion recently published an article about how Queen Elizabeth II actually shot herself while hiding in a bunker because she didn’t want to face a trial.

Stop and Investigate the Source

Searching up “The Onion” reveals it to be a satirical news website, so it is clear that this article is a joke.

Find Other Coverage

A quick google confirms that the Queen actually died peacefully, probably from natural causes. There is nothing to support the idea that there was any kind of siege, trial or suicide.

Trace Claims

Tracing the claims from The Onion only leads to dead ends, while BBC reports that she died peacefully, along with CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post all report that she died of old age.

Accessibility: It just makes sense.

Accessibility and openness is a common sense super power for collaboration and creative solutions.

Openness

Why?

The web has a bidirectional nature that allows the user to use and produce work all on the same platform. This allows for complete openness on both ends, making it possible for others to edit, use, and develop the work that the user puts out and vice versa.

How?

The way to make content open is by making it public, i.e. posting every stage of whatever it is you’re working on. Even though rough drafts are ugly sometimes, the benefits that come from openness outweigh the shame of a rocky start.

Double rainbow in front of a wall of clouds.
Double rainbow in the Burg.

Accessibility

Why?

Accessibility benefits all users because it gives each person equal access to the work that happens online. It also benefits the work itself because it allows for criticism and suggestion from diverse perspectives that make it better.

How?

Closed caption, alternate text on images and text to speech tools are all ways to make virtual content more accessible to those with disabilities, but also provides easier access for everyone else. Some websites, like WordPress, have software that allows you to test the accessibility of your desktop, and step by step instructions on maximizing access to content online.

Grace Delaney

turtles bruh
I am a sophomore at the University of Mary Washington, looking to major in English. I coach middle school field hockey for a local middle school, and I love snowboarding. My favorite color is green and my favorite animal is a turtle.
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