Help From Harford : Claims and Statistics

Voted 2017’s word of the year, the phrase’Fake News’ is now everywhere and with this people are beginning to question what they are being told more. Statistical claims are a huge opportunity for readers to consume fake news.

Tim Harford has said that people should observe their feelings toward a claim more, as this helps us understand if we really believe it to be true or not because we can’t change the way we feel. I can understand where he is coming from, as I’m sure most people have a gut feeling.

Harford says that the problem is solved by realizing that we have biases and we need to be aware. He also says that we need to get to the bottom of what a claim actually means.

Does it have any detail? does it use relevant data? observation and analysis of claims is the best way to process statistics and claims. A google search could be the thing that’s stopping us from knowing the truth behind a claim, so don’t be shy to open up safari.

On the whole Tim Harford encourages us to be more critical when reading statistics, data and claims. He says to ask yourself what’s been left out and understand what the back story is.

These points seem fairly obvious but in the rush of today’s world where nobody has time for anything, taking time to think about a claim could be the difference between you sharing fake news or not.

After listening to him, Tim Harford’s advice has really come to light when earlier this week I was presented with a statistic on Facebook’s relationship with its users.

It claimed that there are 30,000 people employed last year to help tackle the fake news problem it faces. I Hardly believed this and not to my surprise the claim actually included staff that was employed work for Facebook in all sectors of the company.

Harford’s advice boils down to encouraging us to take a step back and analyze what we are looking at but not to put our feelings aside.