Earlier 2018, Singapore was making it’s attempt in legislating fake news. I don’t think I want to comment about this hurly burly but I have a better idea, why not try educating the public?

But didn’t NLB tried that with their SURE National Information Literacy Programme?

I’m actually thinking about an even simpler approach – the first few seconds of response that draws on what make us human. The approach is the same but the thinking process is different. And this depends on whether you are more optimistic or sceptical-pessimistic in nature.

Case Study

Allow me to use a real unintentional fake news situation (details here) as a case study: In 2014, a blogger accused some runners taking part in a marathon for taking a shortcut to complete the race. He analysed the runner’s timings on his blog, and was dismayed at their dishonesty. Official news later clarified that the marathoners were forced to reroute because the organisers had to reopen the original routes that was used by the marathon.

At that time, I believed the blogger’s allegations. It looked like the blogger put in great research and his allegations was believable. Neither did I nor the blogger knew the circumstances behind this and hence, it was actually a fake news in the making.

The Humanistic Check Approach

The humanistic check approach has a cardinal rule:

“人性本善”

“Men are kind by nature.”

Confucius

If you can believe in this rule sometimes, that’s all it takes to “fact check” the fake news.

Approach: If we are the more optimistic sort

Ask “most generous interpretation” question:

  • What is my most generous interpretation of the people who are accused of being dishonest by taking the shortcut?
    • Could it be the fact that they faced are facing medical issues but they really wanted to complete the race?
    • Could it be that there was an accident somewhere and they have to force themselves through the shortcut?
    • Could it be that they are so tired, they saw the wrong signs and followed the wrong route, eventually leading to a short cut?

By believing that the runners are kind by nature, thinking about whether had any good reasons aside from the convenient dishonesty reason, it provides us with reasons to counter the fake news.

Approach: If we are the more sceptical-pessimistic sort

Be sceptical about the source instead of the content:

  • Could the article be wrong?
  • Could the blogger be wrong?
  • Could the blogger have some biases of his own?

In other words, since we like to doubt and assume the worse, assuming that the news source is unreliable will help frame our mindset to do fact checking.E

The Moderated Mindset

In summary, instead of accepting the bad news as the truth, we take a step back and think about something positive about the human nature wanting to do good, to see if it aligns with the news content. This will moderate our emotions and expectation to the news allowing us to be more ready to do fact checking for ourselves if we choose to pursue the news deeper.

What do you think? Do you think this will work for you?