As the scandal surrounding Cambridge Analytica and Facebook unfolded, many of us took a step back to question how we share data, how much power we give the worlds largest technology platforms, and how much trust we put in the information we consume online.
Today, we have all become information addicts.
With the internet at our fingertips, there is no topic, no piece of data, and no precious insight that is out of our grasp. But how much of this is unqualified and unchecked?
Faster and wider content distribution, a 24/7 news cycle, and social media driven by algorithms and bots are making it increasingly difficult to decipher what information is valuable and what indeed is fact or fiction.
Poor quality information can reach more people, more quickly than ever before.
Call it fake news, misinformation, or propaganda – the problem is not new. But today, the viral nature of the internet, and the granularity with which adverts and information can be targeted, mean it is now a real concern for people and employers alike.
In fact, 70 per cent of workers use the internet as a go-to source of information about their jobs. And of those questioned by McAfee, 70 per cent admitted that they do not fact-check before they share information online.
Research from Columbia University and the French National Institute claimed that six in 10 people who share news URLs on Twitter havent even read them first.
So, as a business leader, how can you ensure your employees are not at the receiving end of misinformation – or, indeed, contributing to the problem?
Spot the dodgy news
The first step in tackling the problem is to improve awareness, and give your employees the tools they need to spot the fakes for themselves.
Encourage people to be aware of the risks involved – perhaps by hiring a media or research professional to come into your workplace and run a workshop. If you encourage staff to become more conscious of the risks of misinformation, they will begin to act as editors of the content they share between each other.
By training your employees to spot misinformation and identify untrustworthy sources, youre not only protecting the quality of their learning, but you could be protecting your business as a whole.
Do you have a central or open-source database of approved information or content? In this world of information overload, employers have an opportunity to act as curators of content.
By providing a place where employees can find and share quality information from reputable sources, and by enabling feedback and reviews, you can curate a learning experience for your people that you can rely on to be both valuable and accurate.
The risk in attempting to manage the information your employees see is that you take a top-down approach and hinder their development. You want to make sure they still feel free enough to search out and share information.
Consider the fact that 80 per cent of learning occurs through interactions with co-workers. Armed with the tools you have given them in identifying misinformation, and through the curated content you offer, you might want to encourage social learning through your internal communications platforms such as Slack, Facebook at Work, Yammer or intranet.
This will give your employees the freedom to share information in a space that has quality control baked in through peer review, and will allow you to have oversight of what employees are sharing.