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SIFT-ing Through Information Online

by Lydia Bello on 2022-03-10T09:44:46-08:00 | 1 Comment

In the past decade the world of information around us has changed dramatically. Information moves faster than ever. With multiple emerging, current, and ongoing crises, like the Uyghur genocide, the invasion of Ukraine, and catastrophic flooding in Indonesia, it is more important than ever to be up-to-date and careful about what you read and share in your social media feeds, academic work, and professional settings 


The skills to make decisions about what you read and share is called media literacy. Media literacy is the ability to be critically engaged when receiving, finding, evaluating, using, creating, and sharing media, particularly in an online environment.  In an online environment, media includes Tweets, videos, memes, articles, advertisements, and web pages. 


All this information can be overwhelming, and it can be challenging to make decisions about the media you consume. Enter the SIFT framework, developed by Michael Caulfield. The aim of SIFT is to help users very quickly fact-check claims found in a rapidly changing online environment. 


SIFT is an acronym, and acts as a quick set of steps for you to follow when you encounter information online:  


Stop: If you don’t know the website or source, or if you are having a strong emotional reaction, stop reading and/or don’t share.  Strong emotions include anger, fear and vindication. 


Investigate the source: See what other reputable sources say about the publication source of the claim to help determine its aim or agenda. The easiest way to do this is to find a Wikipedia entry about the source or the people or organization behind the source. 


Find trusted coverage: Find other germane, reputable, or major news coverage to identify consensus or general agreement of experts, or use fact-checking websites to verify accuracy 


Trace claims, quotes and media back to their original source: Follow hyperlinks or go to attributed sources or perform reverse image searches to see how the claim is presented in its original context.  Much of what is on the internet is not original content.  Rather it is repackaged and recycled. 


Caulfield states these steps, “are about reconstructing the necessary context to read, view, or listen to digital content effectively.” Critical engagement is key to constructing or reconstructing context. Being critically engaged helps us to understand where information comes from, recognize the covert and overt aims of the information creator, and apply or synthesize new information in our decision making. Fortunately, these steps are easy to keep in mind and apply to what you are reading and sharing, which can have a large impact on other people.  


If you want to find out more about how SIFT works, you can read about it here, and if you have any questions about using SIFT or how misinformation moves online, you can reach out to a Research Librarian at  

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Posts: 1
Trish Stone 2022-05-08T13:46:23-07:00

Thank you for this information!  Good to know!




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