What is Lateral Reading?

In an age where information travels at an extraordinary speed, separating between fact and fiction has become a valuable skill. 

The traditional method of reading an article from start to finish might not be sufficient today when misinformation has tainted everything online. 

This is where lateral reading steps in, offering a powerful tool for media literacy and fact-checking.

What is Lateral Reading?

Lateral reading is a technique that involves checking multiple sources and perspectives simultaneously rather than relying solely on the content of a single source. 

Instead of reading an article in a linear way – top to bottom – lateral readers navigate away from the original source to evaluate its credibility, context, and the overall consensus on the topic.

Stanford History Education Group defines it as a strategy for investigating who’s behind an unfamiliar online source by leaving the webpage and opening a new browser tab to see what trusted websites say about the unknown source.

Helps to Cross-Verify

It enables us to cross-verify information quickly and efficiently. 

Instead of taking a source at face value, we can consult other reputable sources to confirm or challenge the facts given in the article. 

For example, if an article claims a breakthrough in cancer treatment, we, following lateral reading principle, might check other scientific journals or reliable news outlets to verify the information.

Helps Avoid Potential Biases

Every source has its own perspective and potential biases. Lateral reading allows us to identify these biases by comparing information across different platforms. 

If an article is overly positive or negative about a particular subject, lateral readers can explore other sources with varying viewpoints to gain a more balanced understanding.

Helps Understanding Context 

Lateral reading helps in understanding the context surrounding the information. 

For instance, if a news article quotes a political figure, we might look into the politician’s background, and previous statements to better understand the context and potential motivations behind the statement.

Lets see how lateral reading can help us falling victim to misinformation

Example 1

Consider a viral social media post claiming a celebrity’s untimely demise. Lateral reading involves checking reputable news websites, official statements, and other reliable sources to confirm or debunk the news before spreading it further.

Example 2

During election seasons, politicians often make claims about their opponents. Lateral reading involves fact-checking these statements by consulting independent fact-checking websites.

Example 3

When encountering health-related information, such as a new miracle cure or diet trend, lateral reading involves consulting medical professionals, reputable health websites, and scientific studies to assess the validity and potential risks associated with the information.

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Media Literacy Team
Media Literacy Team
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