The Basic Skills:

There’s a lot of bad information out there about the recent coronavirus outbreak. At the same time, just tuning out is not an option. Epidemics and pandemics are serious business.

What can do do about this? How can we take advantage of the new levels of engagement of the public with these issues while making sure that engagement is not manipulated by bad actors, or misinformed by error?

Over the past four years, I have worked with students and faculty to identify the core skills and habits that students and citizens are missing that leave them vulnerable to misinformation and disinformation on the web. We have organized them into a model called SIFT: Stop, Investigate the source, Find trusted coverage, and Trace claims, quote and media to the original context.

We call these “moves” and we tie each one to a couple simple skills you can usually execute in 30 seconds or less. You can learn all the moves and associated skills in less than three hours, and our work with students indicates that these skills will make a dramatic difference in your ability to sort fact from fiction on the web (and everything in between).

The first move is simple: Stop. When you feel strong emotion, surprise, or just an irrepressible urge to share something… stop. Then use your moves:

Investigate the Source

Find Trusted Coverage

Trace Claims, Quotes and Media to the Original Context


Want to know a (little) bit more about why SIFT works? Watch the video.

About the Author

Mike Caulfield is a digital information literacy expert working at Washington State University. He has worked with various organizations on digital literacy initiatives to combat misinformation, including AASCU’s American Democracy Project, the National Writing Project, and CIVIX Canada. He is a winner of the Rita Allen Misinformation Solutions Prize, and the author of the award-winning textbook Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers. His approach to digital critical consumption, often referred to as the “four moves”, is popular among those teaching first-year college students how to evaluate and contextualize information sources. His work has been covered by NPR, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The Times (of London).

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