When you encounter new information, especially when the source is a meme or shared content on social media platforms, you must SIFT! If you do this right, it should only take 1-3 minutes and you should SIFT BEFORE you read the whole piece.
First and most important: STOP: before you share or respond, before you read or watch, take a look at the source. Do you know enough about the source to be able to assess whether it's factual or accurate? Can you even identify the source of the claim or information?
If yes, great, but if you have even a moment's hesitation, you'll need to move on to another step. Before you do that, look at the headline or meme or title and ask: Is it eliciting a strong emotional response? Does it claim to be from an expert? Is incendiary language used? Humor? Is it news, opinion, entertainment, satire, or propaganda?
Then, take some time to INVESTIGATE: is there a claim you can fact check? Can you find a primary source or news report that says the same thing? Has a professional fact checker already assessed the information?
Next, it's time to FIND: better sources. If you can't find better sources, you should not be sharing or responding. If the only corroboration is from sources that use each other as evidence or all cite just one person or website, ask yourself why that might be (pro tip: usually because it's bad information). If you can find better sources, engage with those sources instead.
And finally, TRACE: If you did a good job investigating and finding better sources, you may already have traced the information -- but when it comes to media like pictures, use reverse image search and the date tools in Google to see when the image(s) was created. It's amazing how often images recirculate with new captions years after they were first shared.
The IFT in sift don't all happen for every piece of information you encounter - sometimes just moving through one of the three will give you enough information.
The SIFT framework was created by Mike Caulfield and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
DATA VOIDS happen when many people begin searching for information that doesn't exist. There are several types of voids, but in the current situation the one to note is BREAKING NEWS: a lack of sources means there is room for error, whether because of speed or because people are deliberately planting false leads or witnesses either for propaganda reasons or to drive traffic from spiking search terms. These voids will eventually be filled by legitimate news content, but can be abused before such content exists.
CLICKBAIT is online content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page. Headlines are often written clickbait style. Clickbait is deliberately provocative and while the accompanying article might be well-researched, the tendency of people to scroll online means many readers often engage only with the possibly misleading headlines and end up misinformed.
PROPAGANDA AND CENSORSHIP are tools used to change perception through omissions and even outright lies. Russia has disinformation services who seed false content to spaces like FaceBook, often disguised to seem as if it's coming from non-Russian sources. Currently, Russia is also censoring access to social media in what is presumably an attempt to replace facts with propaganda.