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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett

Ten Ways to Arm Yourself Against Fake News

The pandemic has taught us to carefully assess the barrage of Covid information we receive daily. Business people must also be able to evaluate information when making strategic decisions and when disseminating information to their customers, suppliers, partners, and employees. Otherwise, their audiences may leave. Here are tips to help you distinguish reliable information from fake news.

The four major types of fake news:

"Misinformation is false, misleading, or out-of-context content shared without an intent to deceive." The information providers think they are providing accurate information. ( For example, they may carelessly post the wrong caption under a photo or misstate statistics. Nonetheless, "people die because of misinformation," noted Nancy Watzman of First Draft. Misinformation is usually protected under the First Amendment.

"Disinformation is purposefully false or misleading content shared with an intent to deceive and cause harm." ( Examples are robot calls, Russia's reasons for attacking Ukraine, and rumors and "intentionally created conspiracy theories." As disinformation may include slanderous or hateful language, it is not protected under the First Amendment.

Malinformation is "genuine information that's shared with the intent to harm." Examples are "leaked private information, revenge porn, and hate speech." (

DeepFakes are "videos [that] use deep learning, a type of artificial intelligence" to insert images of a person in an audio or video file, such as inserting a celebrity's photo into a pornographic image. (

Ask these questions to test whether information is reliable:

  • Did the information come from a trustworthy source who has the appropriate expertise?
  • Does this expert's information deviate from information from other similarly qualified experts? Is this a red flag?
  • What are the source's intentions? To provide useful information or to harm others?
  • Is the source attempting to boost sales or achieve competitive advantage, strategic advantage, or personal gain?
  • Is the information based on facts rather than emotion?
  • Is the language straightforward or manipulative?
  • Does the source make personal attacks or scapegoat people?
  • Does the source make deceptive comparisons?
  • Is the information complete, or are there important gaps in the information?
  • Are examples, charts, and statistics used appropriately? Are they correctly interpreted?

Combatting fake news requires "intervention" on three fronts, concluded the Communications Network:

  • "Production- Influencing the storytellers."
  • "Distribution- Filtering out the junk" by social media outlets and others.
  • "Consumption- Making your audience immune." Researchers advocate "pre-bunking" or "inoculating" audiences through a series of videos that expose viewers to techniques used in disinformation.*
  • To avoid disseminating false information, carefully vet content before distributing it. First, consider the qualifications of your sources and their intentions. A politician is not a credible source of Covid advice. Then consider why you are distributing the information. Are your reasons valid? Is the information you plan to provide accurate? Is it useful? How will the information be received? Savvy customers and potential partners recognize disinformation, and they may abandon negotiations or leave your website if they distrust your content. Additionally, if your employees are flooded with bad information—or even no information about the rumored sale of your company—they will look for new jobs.

= Sources:

*'Pre-bunking' shows promise in fight against misinformation ( &

Actionable Business Insights

Copyright ©10/22 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.

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