The 'Fast Food War' is real
This post applies Mike Caulfield’s strategies of web literacy to examine the reliability of web content and is followed by reflections on web sources.
The task we chose to do is titled Fast Food War, and can be found in the ‘Verifying Identity’ category on Mike Caulfield’s Four Moves Blog.
Prior to solving our mystery, we consulted Chapter 31 of his e-book, titled Verifying Twitter Identity and followed the steps he had laid out in it.
First we “went upstream” and went to the alleged source of the presented tweet. We started inspecting the profile of Twitter user @KFC_UKI. The thing that we noticed straight away was the account’s cover photo. It represented the official KFC slogan “It’s finger lickin’ good”, only the “finger lickin’” part had been blurred out. We found this fishy, because it seemed to us as if these two words were censored, which would imply that there’s some inappropriate language underneath. This would not befit a real account, so we thought that perhaps it was fake. However, when we put the words “KFC slogan” in our search engine, we quickly found that these two words are in fact currently being omitted from the official slogan due to the hygiene advice during the COVID-19 pandemic. So we nodded our heads and went on with our investigation.
The next thing we noticed was the fact that it was a verified account. We remembered that the verification badge could be faked, so we tried to check whether it was indeed fake by using the ‘hover technique’. We put our cursor on the badge and unfortunately the words “verified account” did not pop up. However, this was not the end of our quest for the truth, since we figured that this option perhaps didn’t exist anymore. So we found other verified accounts that we knew were real and tried doing this on their hover cards, and as we’d suspected – nothing happened again.
This meant that the account was truly verified, since the badge did exist in the hover card (as with all verified accounts) and no other verified account had those words popping up either. So we proceeded. The next thing we checked was the bio. It had a link to another one of KFC’s profiles that we then looked into as well. It seemed legit. Then we returned to our page of interest and checked the following things: the date the profile was created (a long time ago so that was another plus), the number of followers (nothing suspicious there) and previous tweets.
As far as the number was concerned, there were plenty of them, but what was interesting was the unexpected manner of communication. Mind you, it was nothing too worrisome; however, the person running the stream seemed kind of too laid back and unofficial, but after scrolling for a bit, we concluded it was probably just the image KFC wanted to create for themselves – laid back and fun. The tweet stream was consistent in that regard, meaning that the tweet in question was not uncharacteristic for them at all. (We checked and the tweet still exists btw.) In the end, our final verdict is – both the account and the tweet pass!
Q1: How do we make sure we are not excluding valuable sources? What are the dangers of a diet of news from only one type of source?
When searching for answers or information, it is important to have a broad picture of reality and take all options into consideration. That is the only way we can get a complete and satisfactory answer. If we use only one source of information we may get an answer that is incomplete, poorly worded, confusing or inaccurate. Thus, it is best to combine several types of sources, online, newspapers, and perhaps oral. Online sources are effective because we can find an answer very quickly and from the comfort of our home, but sometimes it may be hard to find credible sources. This is because many articles are written by amateurs who often confuse readers, are not informed well enough or even spread completely false information. When it comes to online sources, it is best to use well-known and verified sites because they are usually the most credible and valuable ones.
Some people trust newspapers and books more, perhaps because these are tangible evidence in our hands that instill confidence in us. However, newspapers can also be a source of false information. Therefore, as well as for online sources, it is best to use formal newspapers and books written by well- known and credible writers.
In conclusion, whether we are using online sources or not, for a complete and broad answer it is best to use a combination of sources, the ones which are verified and official because they are the most valuable ones.
Q2: Why do we trust some sources more than others?
We live in a state of paradox. Never before in history has information been so abundant and easily accessible to everyone, and yet most of us live in the darkness, deprived of truth. And in that garden of colorful miscellaneous news, we can’t help but wonder – What “flower” do we pick? What guarantees that the source we choose is the one that speaks the truth? And is truth to be found anywhere anymore?
Although there are fewer and fewer sources that follow the code of journalistic standards and ethics, some of them have shown to be more trustworthy than others. First of all, many people place their trust in the sources that last long. Therefore, news sources such as the New York Times, the Daily Mail, and NBC are among the most popular ones in the USA, despite some of them having the reputation of being biased. Others choose to inform themselves via media that leans towards their personal political views. Thus, Americans who support Republicans will more likely follow Fox News, while the supporters of Democrats will choose CNN. However, the question that arises is – How smart is this decision?
In the world of lurid headlines, clickbait, putting one site on a pedestal, and disdaining the other, it is difficult to distinguish true from false. However, it should not be forgotten that we still have the tool that can help us discover the veracity, and that is the Internet. This requires some further digging up on our part, as opposed to clicking on the first website that pops up.
Comparing multiple articles on the same topic can tell us a lot about a particular website, newspaper, broadcast, etc., such as: what is the focus of the news – informing their readers/listeners and letting them adopt their own attitudes on the topic or making conclusions for them by providing only one-sided arguments? Also, it is important to know who stands behind a particular piece of news, is it a credible person educated in the field or an acronym?
When choosing an information source, one should always use a common-sense filter, and understand that the role of media is to provide neutral information. Decades of existence and good marketing do not guarantee their credibility, so it all boils down to thorough research from each one of us.