Evaluating Science and Health Information

Two of the most important kinds of information we look for online are about health and science. This section looks at how we get news and information about health and science topics, types of misinformation that are particularly common in those subjects, and steps we can take to determine how reliable a source or claim is.

Probably the most essential factor in accurately and objectively judging health and science information is to understand how science is done.

Though health and science topics are subject to the same kinds of misinformation found everywhere, there are two types that are particularly common in these fields: denialism and snake oil.

While many of us strongly prefer online sources when seeking out health and science information,[1] a majority first encounter health or science stories through traditional news outlets.[2]

Two of the most important kinds of information we look for online are about health and science. These can have a big effect on decisions we make about our own lives and our opinions on controversial issues.

While it’s important to be skeptical of political news, especially during an election, it’s also important to be able to recognize and dismiss outright disinformation: the deliberate spreading of false or misleading information. The content of political disinformation spans a wide spectrum, from stories that might be credible (such as an endorsement of a politician from a surprising source) to those that are utterly unbelievable (such as the accusation that a candidate for national office is involved in a child-exploitation ring housed in the basement of a pizza parlour). Those spreading disinformation can include governments, political activists and even for-profit publishers (some of whom run multiple disinformation operations that cater to different parts of the political spectrum).[1]

This section will explore how to read election and political news critically, how to recognize misinformation (information that is incorrect) and disinformation (the deliberate spreading of false or misleading information), and how to be a more active and engaged consumer of political news.

Journalism has been described as the lifeblood of democracy,[1] and elections, likewise, have long been journalism’s bread and butter. The relationship between the two, however, has always been fraught. Even Thomas Jefferson, a lifelong advocate for freedom of the press, said while he was president that “nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”

Impact of Misinformation

Informed voters are essential to the democratic process, but in our modern news environment it can be difficult separating facts from propaganda. This section will explore how to read election and political news critically, how to recognize misinformation and disinformation, and how to be a more active and engaged consumer of political news.

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