In the Internet We Trust… But Should We?

Safer Internet Day

On 9th February 2021, Safer Internet Day will be asking us to consider how we use the Internet, including how safe we are online and how we can work out whether to trust the information we come across on the web. Are you confident you know how to use the Internet safely?

It’s hard to imagine from the early days of dial-up of the instant access that we have today. We are rarely disconnected with our smartphones connected via data informing us of every email and message.

Our use of the web for personal and business reasons doesn’t come without concerns. From the amount of screen time that dominates everyday life to the information we access and rely on. Specifically, there are concerns about the validity of the information.

FAKE NEWS!

The 45th President of the United States used the term fake news throughout his four-year term. Although used to describe news stories that he felt were critical of him and his policies, it does highlight a growing area of concern when it comes to information on the web – just how true is it?

Deep fake

This term is another one that should concern us all. Deep fakes are the 21st century answer to photoshopping. It uses sophisticated artificial intelligence called deep learning and is used to manipulate photographs and videos. It can conjure events that never took place and do so to such an extent, that it is hard to spot what is real and what isn’t.

Nothing new but on a bigger scale

Fake news or rumours have long been a part of life but what the internet has done is magnify not just the false stories but how we respond and how many people become involved. 

So, how we ensure we use the internet safely, both for ourselves and our business?

  1. Develop a critical mindset – during the 2016 US election, a study found that at least 25% of people had visited a fake news site. The concern is that false or misleading stories continue to circulate, and people make decisions based on this information. The same could be true for business decisions. Develop a critical mindset – where is this information coming from and why?
  2. Check the source – is the site or the person saying these things an expert in the subject? Checking the source is one way of critiquing whether the information is accurate.
  3. Who else is reporting the story? – is it just on one site or the story being reported more widely? This can help determine if the story has legs or not.
  4. Is there evidence? – are claims backed up with data or some other kind of evidence? When authors and journalists back up their claims it hints at a more credible story.
  5. Question the images too – the ability to be able to make changes to original photographs or even create a whole new fake image is beyond imagination!

The Internet is, by and large, a great place for people and businesses but it pays to be cautious and to question the information that we read and the information that we share too.

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