Elusive Truths

Paula LabrotBy Paula Labrot

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Elusive Truths
Last November I told G that I dreaded 2020. “Why?” he asked. Because this election year is going to be so ugly, so divisive, so intellectually bereft, so …. mean.” And here we are. In the middle of it. And it’s ugly, divisive, intellectually bereft and very, very mean. We are being bombarded with so much disinformation and propaganda that people don’t know whom to listen to, whom to trust. This gives Big Tech a frightening amount power over the perceptions of the public, most of whom are pretty unsophisticated users of social media and info-tech. So, here are some ideas to help you navigate the onslaught of information aimed at you each day. BROWSERS Browsers are your search engines. Most people use Google. Have you ever noticed when you seek information about an issue or politician how the top stories all have the same slant? Positive or negative. Right or left. Well, your browser keeps track of you online…what sites you visit, whom you donate to, what products you buy etc. The algorithms running the search engine sort your adventures online and make a profile of what they think your likes and dislikes are. So, depending if you visit Fox or CNN, you’ll get news and information that suit that particular slant. That is called a filter bubble. You hear no dissent, just echoes. BRAVE is a new kind of browser designed to give the user power over his or her privacy. According to vpn.com, “Brave is a web browser which seeks to treat each user as an individual, instead of a product.” Your web-footprint is much more private and your personal data much more secure from being harvested and sold. Brave has an open-source, transparent culture, dedicated to open, unfiltered browsing experiences. Check it out at Brave.com. REFERENCE INFORMATION Wikipedia is a crowd-sourced encyclopedia. There is a lot good about Wikipedia, but their own disclaimer review of itself denies its reliability. “Wikipedia can be edited by anyone at any time. This means that any information it contains at any particular time could be “vandalized”, a work in progress, or just plain wrong. Biographies of living persons, subjects that happen to be in the news, and politically or culturally contentious topics are especially vulnerable to these issues. Edits on Wikipedia that are in error may eventually be fixed. However, because Wikipedia is a volunteer-run project, it cannot monitor every contribution all the time. There are many errors that remain unnoticed for days, weeks, months, or even years. Therefore, Wikipedia should not be considered a definitive source in and of itself.” Best to check other reference sites along with Wikipedia. Infogalactic is another, excellent reference site. Their “primary requirements are for the information contributed to be true, relevant, and verifiable, rather than cited from a so-called “published reliable source”, since experience has proven how reliance upon the latter can be easily gamed by editors and administrators alike. There is no culture of notability, ideology, or deletionism at Infogalactic.” I sure like that, and I use both sites when seeking reference information as a way of fact-checking. SOCIAL MEDIA Don’t start me. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple….all of them are on my resentment list. They took the beautiful, pristine world wide web and made it into a cesspool of greed and betrayal. They sold out their users collecting private data and selling profiles to marketing companies who use that information to manipulate and puppetize the public. They sold out American jobs and security to gain access to the Chinese market share. Worse, they sold out human beings by bending to censorship and surveillance in China and of the world beyond. They went for profit over everything. Shame, shame on them. That soulless greed is opening the door for new platforms that are attractive to people sickened by the Tech Giants. One new social network is Gab.ai. They describe themselves as “a social network that champions free speech, individual liberty, and the free flow of information online. All are welcome.” Your privacy is respected, and you, as the user, are meant to be in charge of your profile and data online. It’s raw (no one filtering for you, so be prepared to be upset), uncensored, and eclectic. FACT CHECKING Fact checking sites can be biased. Before you pass information on, check it! When you have a piece of information to fact check, go to at least three reliable sources. Check the credentials of the authors of the material you are reading. Do they work for reputable sources? Have they authored any other material? If a quote is given, Google it and check the context. Check Google Statistic to see if anyone else is reporting on the subject. Cross check with another browser. Factcheck.org, Snopes, Politifact, Open Secrets, Science Feedback, and Media Research Center are recommended fact-checking sites. The thing is you have to check a few to get a good fact check result. TRUST AND VERIFY? NO, JUST VERIFY Ultimately, truth is hard to come by these days. Hope this helps a little. Relish diversity, especially of ideas! Vamos a ver!
Paula Labrot

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July 24, 2020