Fulbrighters in Action Against COVID-19 – Arjun Bisen

How to Become a Factfinder-in-Chief

When it comes to fact-checking Covid-19 information on his family’s email chain, Arjun Bisen says he’s appointed himself Factfinder-in-Chief.

It’s a good fit.

The former Australian diplomat recently completed a Fulbright Scholarship at the Harvard Kennedy School. He studied the intersection of technology and disinformation in elections, as well when it comes to health and medical care. Now he works in the US for a leading technology firm.

I asked Bisen for the best way to avoid being duped by errors, misleading statements, propaganda, and conspiracies online during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Five Tips to be an Ace Factfinder:

Master Good Consumption Habits

We all know eating a well-rounded diet is crucial. What we “consume” online is also important. In a global pandemic, Bisen says succumbing to misinformation or disinformation could be dangerous for your health. Seek out the news equivalent of green, leafy vegetables: legitimate sources.

Triangulate Information Intake

Make it a practice to check three sources. For added certainty, check a few more. Then, just for the heck of it, check a few —

You get the idea.

Beware the Dangers of the “Data Void”

Think of this as the information equivalent of the Mariana Trench.

A “data void” is a subject about which we don’t yet have a lot of authoritative information. It’s easy to stumble into a data void during unprecedented, uncertain and alarming situations — such as a new virus that causes a global pandemic. Conspiracies and misinformation lurk in these murky waters. Be vigilant. Cross-check data with multiple reputable news organisations.

Guard Against Your Greatest Vulnerability

No matter who we are or where we live, one thing makes all of us more vulnerable to misinformation. If it fits our bias.

Bisen spent seven years as a diplomat. He navigated geopolitics and trade discussions and drafted Australia’s cyber strategy. He knows it’s crucial to hear from multiple points of view. Open your network to those who disagree. And pay extra attention when information is provocative.

And Remember…

There are always groups which seek to exploit divisions and inflame tensions. Such groups thrive during challenging times, Bisen warns. To foster understanding and solve problems, it’s important to share accurate information – whether it’s on a family email chain, or to the world at large.

Sara James is on the Board of Fulbright Australia.
An Emmy award-winning journalist, she is also the author of An American in Oz and co-author of The Best of Friends.