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We hear a lot about "the crisis of misinformation". But what actually is misinformation, and how do you reliably spot it?

The first thing to look for when determining whether a resource is giving you accurate information is the inclusion of reliable citations and references. Anybody can make a statement, but if it's not backed up with at least one credible source, there is no reason to believe it's true. At Informed Consent Matters, we never make baseless assertions, and will always back up our statements with credible references. 

However, we will also never label another resource "misinformation", as this label is, by and large, a result of personal preference and prejudice, rather than an evidence-based statement of fact. That is to say, anyone can call a perspective they disagree with "misinformation".

That doesn't mean they're right. 

What this does mean is that some information resources label other resources that may have contradictory information to their own, as "misinformation", simply because they disagree with them. We vigorously oppose this tactic, as it serves to suppress free discourse and debate, and therefore undermines, rather than improves, the quality of information available.

Elderly couple

If we believe a point of view is wrong, we will argue our case with evidence and facts, rather than utilising tactics of name-calling to suppress open discourse. In short, one resource calling another "misinformation" does not tell you anything useful about the resource being targeted, but may tell you something useful about the resource doing the targeting.

Information resources can be strongly incentivised to label competitor resources as "misinformation", in the same way an ambitious used car dealer may label his closest competitor "dodgy". No thinking person would take the car salesman at his word, as we understand he wants to sell his own cars and crush the competition, so is strongly motivated to tarnish the reputation of his rival  

Unfortunately, similar underhand tactics are rife throughout the information world, so it's important to be aware of them, and to remember that, just because a well-funded resource says of its less-glossy rivals that they promote "misinformation", does not make this statement true. For instance, pharmaceutical companies, or those who benefit from pharmaceutical funding, may label a resource that draws attention to safety concerns with pharmaceutical products as "misinformation". Obviously, one should be suspicious of their motives in making this assertion. 

Reviewing Paperworks

The takeaway is that it's crucial to use your own discernment and judgement, study all the evidence, and come to an informed view, rather than being swayed by baseless slurs or name-calling. Please note that "fact checkers" are also not necessarily reliable purveyors of objective fact, and that anybody can label themselves a "fact checker" and then say whatever they want. This does not mean what they say is true, and one particularly prolific user of "fact checkers", Facebook, admitted in court its "fact checkers" actually just share opinions, not facts.

Therefore, this resource will never cite "fact checkers", nor label another resource "misinformation", as we believe this is patronising and insulting to our readers, and that it stifles free and open debate - which is essential to any functional, democratic, free society. 

If an individual or body is confident in their view, they should be able to robustly support it with evidence, not have to resort to name-calling and underhand tactics to shut down those with a different perspective. 

Therefore, Informed Consent Matters will simply present evidence, and trust the intelligence and discernment of our audience to evaluate all the information, think about it critically, and come to their own view. 

Elderly couple

If you've not been warned, you're not informed!

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