The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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A portrait of Chancellor Joan Gabel.
Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

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A portrait of Chancellor Joan Gabel.
Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

Editorial | Don’t let yourself fall prey to misinformation in the midst of global conflicts

Editorial+%7C+Don%E2%80%99t+let+yourself+fall+prey+to+misinformation+in+the+midst+of+global+conflicts
Image via Wikimedia Commons

In a speech last Wednesday condemning the attacks by militant group Hamas on Israel, President Joe Biden claimed to have seen “confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children” — a claim the White House later clarified was not true. Biden was actually referring to alleged reports about beheaded children from the Israeli government that had not been confirmed by news outlets and which Hamas had denied.

The Israel-Hamas war — as with any international geopolitical conflict — is surrounded by a shroud of misinformation made worse by a media blackout in Gaza. For a world leader to spread unconfirmed reports of child executions indicates that the extent of propaganda and media bias reaches even those who should be the most cautious and extensively briefed people in our society.

The Pitt News commits ourselves to citing and reporting accurate, impartial and, most importantly, confirmed information on any world event. As such, we also believe it paramount to remain critical about all information you consume, especially about actively developing political conflicts.

It is the responsibility of the media to filter out unsubstantiated information, but it is also the responsibility of the reader to avoid blind consumption. As our student body watches this crisis unfold, we wish to provide them with a few red flags to watch out for as they navigate the smoke and mirrors of Western media coverage.

Pay close attention to the wording of the outlets you read and ask yourself what truth you can actually find in the articles you read. An article may report on a claim made by a government official, but a report is not the same as verification. Depending on the outlet, they may directly indicate they have not confirmed what the source said, but others may leave it ambiguous. If your sources refuse to substantiate a claim made by a spokesperson, do not take it as fact.

Watch for editorialized language. Using words with heavy connotations is an easy way for outlets to push for one side without explicitly stating it — you may recall the ubiquitous use of words like “thugs” and “rioters” from right-leaning media during the peak of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. If you find sources that use loaded, often racist language like “barbaric” or “blood-thirsty” to describe attacks only from one side, that source likely has a bias you should identify.

Bear in mind what a source includes and omits from its reporting. An outlet with a bias toward one side of a conflict may choose to only focus on the death count of the party they support while intentionally excluding the death count from the other side. While this practice is not explicitly misinformative, it paints an incomplete picture of conflicts, often leading to an unjustifiable sway of opinion that makes people ignore the equally relevant statistics from other outlets. This makes it especially important that people read various perspectives from various different news sources.

Finally, if you’re having trouble determining the validity of a source, don’t listen to what it says about itself. Verify it laterally by looking up what other sources have to say about the site you’re reading. This allows you to not only confirm or alleviate suspicions you may have about a certain source, but also to explore what other outlets are saying about the material. Cross-verification is invaluable.

While identifying and dismissing misinformation is important, it is arguably more crucial to avoid spreading it yourself. As our story feeds on Instagram fill with reposted infographics and anecdotes surrounding the ongoing global event, be sure to take a step back before reposting it yourself. Verify the claims and consider the implications of the language before sharing it with your followers and friends. While silence is often harmful in times of crisis, proliferating false information can lead to even worse consequences.

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