Alberta wildfires, objects of misinformation online | Alberta fires 2023

Alberta wildfires, online misinformation objects | Alberta fires 2023

This photo was recently posted on Facebook with a caption suggesting it was taken this month in Westlock, Alberta. In reality, it comes from the Fort McMurray, Alberta wildfire in 2016.

The current context in Alberta, marked by unprecedented wildfires as well as the campaign for the May 29 provincial election, makes the province a subject for spreading false information online.

Elections Alberta recently had to clarify its own messaging on voting rules after evacuees from the fires pointed out in interviews that the misinformation had filled in gaps in official updates.

Elections and natural disasters are unfortunately two of the types of events that tend to trigger the most false and misleading content and claims, observes Craig Silverman, a reporter at ProPublica, a news outlet. ;non-profit investigation in the United States.

He notes that bad people aren't the only ones who spread misinformation: They can be people who sincerely try to pass on information, believing it to be true and helpful.

< p class="e-p">As for misinformation, it consists of spreading false information with the intention of misleading.

Matthew Johnson is Director of Education for MediaSmarts, a Canadian non-profit organization that raises awareness of digital and media literacy. He claims that false information can arise about different aspects of elections such as when polls close, how votes are collected and what documents should or should not be brought to the polling place. /p>

“For everything related to the mechanics of the vote, it is very important to check with the electoral authority, because it is the best source of information […]. These elements can have a direct impact on the possibility of voting or not.

— Matthew Johnson, interviewed on CBC Edmonton's “Radio Active”

Craig Silverman, for his part, notes that other false information disseminated during elections generally concerns parties and candidates themselves, to induce voters to vote one way or another.

“Sometimes you can read claims that appear to be based on facts and statistics, but actually misrepresent what is being said. a particular politician or party. »

— Craig Silverman, Disinformation and Digital Manipulation Specialist, ProPublica

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This other photo from the 2016 wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta was recently shared on Facebook with a caption stating that it was taken this month in Drayton Valley.

However, in the event of a natural disaster like wildfires, Craig Silverman and Matthew Johnson say false information can easily spread through images and videos that may be real, but are are posted out of context.

This month, some photos posted to Facebook claiming to show specific communities affected by Alberta's wildfire season were actually from the 2016 fire, Fort McMurray.

“This is a storyline where there is a mix of real and authentic content, but the context is false or misleading. This is one of the most common types of misleading content we see online.

—Craig Silver

Craig Silverman and Matthew Johnson believe the public should become more familiar with Google's reverse image search, which can show where the #x27;image – and similar photos – appear online.

Another useful tool is TinEye, which lets you know when a photo first appeared online.< /p>

Mr. Silverman believes, however, that whether or not people fall for it is largely down to their state of mind.

< p>“ You have to have the mindset not to try to confirm what you already suspect or what you already believe, and not to seek comfort from someone who explains things exactly as you see them. »

— Craig Silverman

Matthew Johnson describes this mindset as the need for intellectual humility, that is, to being aware of one's own biases and ability to err.

According to him, when you come across news that seems important or that evokes an emotional reaction, the best thing to do is to look for what others are saying.

“What other news outlets are covering this story? And if not, we have reason to be suspicious. »

— Matthew Johnson

The two specialists also recommend using the Google News tab, which limits searches to media outlets. information and not to rely on any single source of information.

With information from Naama Weingarten