SHIFT Strategy to Detect Misinformation



With the availability of ChatGPT-like conversational chatbots and misleading social media posts, misinformation has become a widespread issue in our society. In a recent BBC article, Amanda Ruggeri suggests using a strategy called “Shift” to detect and handle misinformation.

In 2021, Marcia McNutt, president of the US National Academy of Sciences, said that misinformation is worse than an epidemic, referring to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Misinformation is worse than an epidemic. “It spreads at the speed of light throughout the globe and can prove deadly when it reinforces misplaced personal bias against all trustworthy evidence.

– Marcia McNutt (Source: BBC News)

Ruggeri of the BBC recommends the SHIFT strategy for handling misinformation, which is a four-step approach designed to help people to distinguish between reliable information and falsehoods. Let’s look at each steps of the SHIFT strategy and how it can be applied.

  • Stop: Before engaging with any piece of information, take a moment to pause. This step is crucial because it helps prevent immediate reactions based on false or misleading content. When you encounter a news article, social media post, or any information that evokes a strong emotional response, resist the urge to share or act on it right away. This pause allows you to prepare for the next steps of critical evaluation.
  • Investigate the source. Understanding where the information comes from is essential for assessing its credibility. By investigating the source, you can determine whether the information is likely to be reliable. Look for official websites, verified social media accounts, and established news organizations as credible sources. Here are some questions to consider:
    • Who is the author or creator of the content?
    • What are their qualifications and background?
    • Is the source reputable and well-known for providing accurate information?
  • Find Better Coverage. This step involves looking for additional information from other sources to see if the original claim is supported elsewhere. Reliable information is typically corroborated by multiple reputable sources. If you come across a sensational claim, check if other news outlets or experts in the field are reporting the same thing (eg. Google Fact Check). If you find consistent information across various credible platforms, the likelihood of it being accurate increases.
  • Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media to the Original Context. Misinformation often arises from content being taken out of context. By tracing the information back to its original source, you can better understand the context and accuracy of the claim. Tracing information back to its original context helps to verify its accuracy and provides a more comprehensive understanding of the topic. For example:
    • If a quote is attributed to a public figure, find the full speech or interview to see the quote in context.
    • For statistical claims, look for the original study or data source.
    • If a video or image is used to make a claim, try to find the original media to ensure it hasn’t been manipulated or misrepresented.

Ruggeri’s approach encourages critical thinking and helps build a more informed and discerning society, which helps fight misinformation. It’s important to keep an eye on what we read and the information we consume and share is accurate and trustworthy.

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