Friday, November 18, 2016

Facts Matter

I recently updated a 21cif MicroModule on Evidence that got me thinking about recent elections in the US. What role did facts actually play?

Election outcomes don't boil down to just a few factors. Not everyone who voted one way or the other did so without weighing pros and cons. In all probability there could have been cases where a vote was cast knowing something about that candidate wasn't 100% satisfactory. For some, evidence to back up claims was critical; for others, not so much.

Throw into this mix Fake News. Titles that appeared include these:
“Twitter, Google and Facebook are burying the FBI criminal investigation of Clinton.”
“Donald Trump Protester Speaks Out: ‘I Was Paid $3,500 To Protest Trump’s Rally.'”
“Remember the voting days: Republicans vote on Tuesday, 11/8 and Democrats vote on Wednesday, 11/9”
“Just out according to @CNN: “Utah officials report voting machine problems across entire country.”

Whereas none of the headlines can be supported with evidence, did they reinforce or sway voters? Perhaps.

Without evidence, believing something is true gives all the control to the news source.
"If you don't look for evidence you blindly place all your trust in the alleged accuracy of a source. How do you know they are right?"
Here's a helpful open source document on evaluating Fake News sites, thanks to Melissa Zimdars:

She lists 11 tips:
  • Three involve checking the URL of the news source. 
  • Three are about lack of author or publisher attribution. 
  • Two are about checking other, known sources. 
  • One is about the effects of biased writing creating an emotional response. 
  • One is about formatting (pay attention to ALL CAPS)
  • One is about content that encourages bad Internet etiquette.
Can you think of others? These are worth putting into practice unless you don't think facts matter any more.

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