If you now enter the phrase “information hygiene” into a search query, you will get thousands of articles and tips on various resources for the last year alone. Some of them will contain approximately the same content, but you will also see a lot of tips that will differ from each other. So hasn’t the time come when authors of information hygiene courses need to learn information hygiene? And how an ordinary citizen can understand this.
I will take the liberty of explaining the basic things about information hygiene in the context of a full-scale war with Russia. Moreover, the war is not only on the physical battlefield, but also on the information one. And we are generally successful in repelling the enemy and conducting offensive information campaigns.
So, the basic definition of information hygiene is that it is a kind of filtering of the entire flow of information that a person receives. Information hygiene helps to avoid clogging your head with fakes and unnecessary information, and to resist panic and fraud. The goal is to reduce the negative impact of information on a person’s mental, physical, and social state.
Basic rules of information hygiene:
- Always check the source of information cited by the author.
Don’t be lazy and click on all the links embedded in the news, and if there are no links, search for the original source using search engines. Don’t be lazy about translating foreign language sources either, as it’s not technically difficult nowadays. Ideally, you should find all the primary sources mentioned in the text that the authors refer to.
And if there is a discrepancy between the news and the original sources, you are dealing with disinformation if you are reading a “fake news” directly, or perhaps misinformation if this fake news was spread unknowingly by different media outlets.
- Avoid repetitive information.
One of the oldest mechanisms of manipulation that works quite effectively. Because often repeated false information that a person hears from completely different sources makes the subconscious believe it. This does not apply to news about an event that has just happened, but it is very likely that frequently repeated “analytics”, “expert opinion” or other non-operational information is a manipulative tool.
- Check the expertise.
Very often, “expert opinion” is used as a tool for “throwing” disinformation into the information field. Not every person who calls himself an expert is really one. And all the loud names like “national strategic think tank”, of which this expert is the “president” or “leading analyst”, may be the name of a non-governmental organization created to produce fakes, or even the name of an anonymous Facebook or Telegram page.
If a person who is presented to you as an expert is not an expert in this field by education, or his “forecasts” are constantly wrong, or his name is constantly associated with scandals, avoid information coming from him.
A pseudo-expert can be either a deliberate source of disinformation or, due to his or her incompetence, spread false information unknowingly. Very often, such experts are commentators on various events on television, as their main goal is to fill the TV channel’s broadcasting grid between newscasts.
- Do not draw conclusions based on headlines.
Headlines often do not correspond to the content of the news or distort it. Always read the full text of the news.
- Reduce the information load.
Perhaps the key rule. Being constantly immersed in the information flow during a time of war will inevitably lead to emotional exhaustion, stress, and a decrease in attention and critical thinking. The desire to find out more information about the same phenomenon can play a cruel joke – you will drown in the chaos of information.
Loss of critical thinking and emotional exhaustion will make you subconsciously look for pleasant information that is not actually true. You will believe in non-existent victories, and then lose your emotional balance even more because of the disappointment that this did not happen.
Take breaks from consuming information, at least an hour a day, or a day or half a day a week. The important information you need to know will still be there, but you will significantly improve your emotional state.
- Study different points of view on the same problem.
First and foremost, pay attention to whether the information is presented in the same way. If there are different points of view on certain events, study them all and trust official sources of information and reputable media first.
It is clear that in the case of a high-quality disinformation campaign, false information can also be spread by those who are trustworthy, but in most cases this rule works. Reputable media outlets include those with independent or foreign funding, such as Radio Liberty, and media with a long history and no public scandals.
- Be wary of emotions when they start.
The use of words like “shock”, “can’t be”, “sensation” and similar, especially in headlines, is a sign that this is manipulation. Also, beware of any headlines or news that are very emotionally affecting, describing in great detail some crimes, bloody, sexual, immoral details. The emotions of these news stories are meant to distract you from the content of the news, which may be a complete fabrication.
- Look for those who benefit from you learning the news and believing it.
Try to analyze who will benefit from believing the news. Who is interested in you acting in accordance with what you are called upon to do. Learn more about the media owners who disseminate information.
You have to assume that there is no absolute truth in the information space. What our enemies believe to be true is an absolute lie for us. So don’t try to convince everyone that you are right. There will always be people who have a different point of view. And another truth about the events.
The main thing is to believe in Ukraine and its Armed Forces!
Author: Yuriy Honcharenko, Foundation for the Promotion of Democracy.