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More people are getting their information and news online, but did you know that some search engines and social media websites do not do thorough checks on the accuracy of the information they deliver? In fact, their algorithms favour contents that engage users, and this may include click baits, hate sites and fake news. 

How do you tell if information you find on the internet is reliable? How can you protect yourself? It is not so different from shopping at a wet market. Here are 5 tips you can learn from our well-loved heartland aunties about sourcing for the best to consume:

Tip 1: Aunties only go to reliable sources.

1 Trusted-stallholders

Aunties only go to trusted stallholders whose recommendations have been proven reliable—so should you. Read from credible organisations and websites, and watch out for look-alikes masquerading alternative facts as truths. Remember, a slick website does not guarantee accurate content—they merely have a good designer. 

Tip 2: Aunties know their stalls.

2 different culinary

At the wet market, there are different types of meats, seafood and vegetables, and every auntie has their own way of picking up what’s best. Likewise for news, commentaries and advertisements; they each deserve a different level of trust and consideration. It is hard to distinguish the different types of information, even more so online, but the clues are there. Does the section header indicate ‘news’ or ‘opinion’? Does the end of article say ‘sponsored’? If it looks like news but the name of the organisation is unfamiliar to you, be sure to look it up and suss out their agenda.

Tip 3: Aunties are patient, if necessary. 

3 never hurry

Aunties never hurry a fishmonger scaling their fish, because they know the seller is saving them a lot of trouble. Breaking news takes time to develop into detailed stories too. These reported events are usually unexpected, and information typically starts flowing in after the first coverage. If you are reading about a factory fire that happened just 15 minutes ago, it is likely a developing story that will evolve as journalists gather information, seek different opinions, and most importantly, fact-check. You may want to reserve your comments on social media until you read the full story.

Tip 4: Aunties compare everything.

4 Compare-prices

Aunties may have their regular stalls but they never miss a chance to compare quality and prices elsewhere. When looking up information online, that is the attitude you need as you might not get the full picture from a single information provider. Read from other sources that highlight different facts or discuss the same issues in different scenarios, before make your own judgment.

Tip 5: Aunties can sense hogwash from afar 

5 Hogwash-meter

Every auntie has a hogwash meter to warn them of sweet-talking grocers, and you should also have one for stories that pander to your emotions. The business of many online sites is based on clicks, so some may steer themselves away from public interest journalism to sensational stories that will more likely attract your attention (and your clicks). When you come across such stories, it is best to focus on the facts.

There are many other ways you can assess online information but the key is to be critical and to get into the habit of questioning all messages, until you reach the aha-moment of insight and understanding. Always have an inquiring mind when consuming or seeking information and THINK before sharing them. Is it: T-True? H-Helpful? I-Inspiring? N-Necessary? K-Kind? 

At the MCI Workplan Seminar 2017, the Media Literacy Council (MLC) launched the Better Internet x Youths Call for Proposal to support community initiatives that promote digital literacy. Together with its partners Google, Garena, MyRepublic, Facebook and Mediacorp, the MLC will provide funding, training and incubation facilities for young Singaporeans who want to develop social innovation solutions.
The call is open to applications from the public, private and people organisations

For more information on the call for proposals and to download the application forms, click here: http://www.medialiteracycouncil.sg/Pages/CFP.aspx