5 Ways To Protect Yourself Against Disinformation

After researching publicly listed companies, b Invested founder Nathan Birch realised more than ever that he has little faith in the stockmarket. He doesn’t invest his money there because there’s no physical asset.

Companies might be worth millions, they get a round of capital, then hedge funds package them up in derivatives, keep half the stock and sell off the rest of the crumbs to the mums and dads and investors in what is the stock market.

Meanwhile, institutions like Blackrock and Vanguard seem to own 10% of every company out there in the stockmarket. But why do they own parts of all these companies? Who controls them? Who regulates them?

Think of it like…

Imagine Coca Cola and Pepsi are both owned by the same company…Birchy.

You don’t realise Birchy owns both and you might buy from one or the other, but they’re not competitors, they’re the same company. Then say that Birchy also owns a medical company, and a media outlet and a number of other businesses. How could you trust the information that you receive from Birchy’s media outlet? Especially if it relates to other companies that Birchy is invested in? You can’t. That’s why you need to be careful about where you get your information from.

Disinformation’ is deliberately misleading or biased information, manipulated narrative or facts; or propaganda. Disinformation might be spread by governments, intelligence agencies, media organisations and others. So how do you protect yourself against disinformation?

1. Pay more attention to where you are consuming your media from

We are exposed to messages, information and ads that seek to mould our opinions one way or another. Think about what categories the media you consume fall into…is it news, entertainment, comedy, drama, fact or fiction? Identify what it is and treat it as such. You may enjoy reading gossip magazines for the entertainment value, but you probably realise the articles aren’t factual very often. Think of some forms of online news the same way.

2. Do the claims stack up?

Disinformation can often take the form of unverified numbers or statistics, but you can check actual facts at government and statistical websites. Say for example, someone tells you “the last time there was a property boom, the RBA raised interest rates and prices crashed 30%”. To bust this myth, you’d simply go to the RBA website and look at its historical rate decisions over time to see that that didn’t happen. Then you could check data companies like CoreLogic to see that there were no 30% property price crashes at that time.

3. Is your news source legitimate?

If you can easily find information about the ‘news’ company in the ‘about’ section of its website, that is good, but if it’s not clear who is behind the site, who funds it, or what their intentions are, that could be a red flag. Check other well-known news sites to see what they are saying about the same topic, if anything. No one else reporting on it? It may be disinformation.

Think about pictures and videos these days. Deep fakes are very real and common. A reverse image search can show you where else the image has been and can help verify its authenticity.

4. Two sides to every story

You diversify your investment portfolio, so why not diversify the news you consume. Giving time to both sides of an argument gives you access to more information with which to gain perspective and make informed choices.

5. Don’t go social for news

Social media platforms are entertainment sites that use tools to keep you engaged and scrolling through their feeds. People stage ideal situations on social media to get attention and approval from their network of friends. These are certainly not news sites.

In fact, social media channels provide the most rapid spreading of disinformation out there. Think about something you have seen that you know isn’t true, but it’s been shared thousands of times. And the algorithms are set up so you get given more of the information you engage with, so before you know it, you’re in the echo chamber with other likeminded individuals and you think your opinions are ‘the news’.

Treat social media for what it is…a place to hang out and be social, not a reputable information source.