How to Stay Properly Informed

After the Paris attacks on Nov. 20, there were many facts that ended up being false shared on social media. Some of these ‘facts’ came out of the fog of war. During a tragedy as big as the one in Paris, information gets foggy. This doesn’t mean the media is trying to lie or manipulate the public, it means that there is uncertainty in some details. 

Staying properly informed is important to making educated decisions. While some social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are an easy way to get news, ensuring the sources providing the information are reliable, is important. Journalism professor MaryAnn Owens says to beware of bias, absolutes and adjectives. Using social media as a news source isn’t a bad thing, but “don’t let it be your primary source.”

Check dates on articles, tweets, Facebook posts and images. After the Paris attacks, one of Donald Trump's tweets from Jan. 7, 2015 was claimed to have been tweeted after Nov. 20, 2015. The tweet was made after a three-day attack in Paris starting Jan. 7, 2015 and ending Jan. 9, 2015. Many were outraged at this tweet, calling it insensitive. Trump's popularity grew after this tweet because many were terrified and Trump's inexperience, according to The Hill, did not decrease his support. 

 

A photo of the Eiffel tower with its lights off was circulated, claiming the lights were turned off to mourn the victims of the attacks. The Eiffel tower is dimmed every night at 1 a.m. to conserve energy. This is an example of the fog of war, it’s easy to believe the lights going out was a sign of respect. There wasn't any bias in this post and there wasn't time to verify if this was true because there were 129 deaths and attackers on the loose. 

While that shared post wasn’t harmful, there was a photo shopped Instagram photo of Veerender Jubbal claiming he was a terrorist. The photo shopped image showed Jubbal standing in front of a mirror, holding the Quran and wearing a vest. The image was shared by many, including journalists according to the New York Times. The photo ended up on the front page of a Spanish newspaper.

A video claiming that Muslims in London were celebrating the Paris attacks began to circulate as well. The video showed men fist pumping and smiling. It was shared with the title "Muslims Around the World Celebrate The Islamic Victory in Paris France.” According to The Washington Post the video was from 2009 and showed a group of Pakistani men celebrating a cricket match victory. 

Paying attention to detail is also important. The video of the Pakistani men showed them wearing green clothes and chanting. Photo shopped images aren't easy to distinguish because some are more professional than others. Looking for distortions, odd shadows and cropped images can be tell tale signs. 

Staying informed in college is important as the voice of the future lies within college students. Check sources for reliability, make informed decisions with a level-head and above all verify information.