(It is important to note that databases also have inherent bias toward Caucasian, male authors, so be aware of this when looking at search results.)
This occurs when someone unintentionally presents information which is not factually correct as if it were correct. This could be as simple as getting a date incorrect or as complex as presenting an herb as a cure for one illness when it is actually meant for another illness with a similar sounding name. This is where spelling and grammar can be really important
This occurs when someone knowingly presents information which is factually false as if it is correct. For example, someone accuses an entire schoolboard of taking bribes even though that person knows for a fact that no one on the schoolboard has taken bribes. Not only is this slanderous, but it is also willful deceit. Smear campaigns are often rife with disinformation.
The difference between these two lies in that one intended to deceive people, but the other did not. Intention can be tricky to figure out, so you want to be a discerning reader.
So, there is a lot of misinformation and disinformation out there. Just look at your social media accounts, and you probably will see some there. So, what can you do? Try some of the following:
As you are reading, open a new tab (or two or three) on your computer and fact-check what you find. Look for reliable sources. If you find conflicting information, you may need to do a deep dive and find peer-reviewed, expert sources.
When you are in your social media account, often you can right click on an image and "Search Image with Google Lens," or you can "Inspect" the image, which presents you with html and often the source URL. You can use that source URL to track down the origin of the image and see if it has been altered in any way.
Technology has gotten really good when it comes to visuals. Really pay attention to things like shadows, lighting, shapes that appear slightly off, objects that obscure part of an image, words that don't seem to match the movement of lips, and other small details. Also, consider whether the image is showing something that is out of character for an individual, group, animal, etc. In addition, looks for signs of cuts in the video and sound, as this can create misleading and inflammatory content.
There are several factcheckers out there. Here are two of the most popular once that you might try:
People tend to trust sources that have graphs and charts, but you actually need to evaluate those, too! Just because a site or article has statistics, graphs, and charts does not mean that these are accurate. Look carefully at the statistics and how the research was conducted. Was the sample size small? Was the sample heterogeneous or homogeneous? Was there a high margin of error or standard deviation? Consider what information the charts and graphs purport to be presenting. Then, check the information! Some sites use false graphs and charts as clickbait!
Listen to your instincts! If something seems off, it probably is. Question what you read. Fact check. Look for multiple sources. When so much information is available, it's important to be a discerning reading and thinker who doesn't take anything at face value.