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Tools & Training

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Digital Strength Training 

Gaining digital strength is like going to a gym or embarking on any healthy regimen for wellness. It requires consistency and diligence in exercising different muscle groups. In this case, the muscles are cognitive skills, such as recognizing when you’re being emotionally manipulated; searching to identify a source’s intent; building new pathways for navigating the web.  

The Digital Strength Initiative employs digital learning tools proven effective through evidence-based research by the Stanford Social Media Lab. Each module delivers a best practice for navigating and avoiding some of the internet’s pitfalls. This research shows that practicing the following six skills helps hone the ability to determine the authenticity and trustworthiness of online information. 

Lateral reading

Lateral reading is the act of evaluating the credibility of a  source by comparing it with multiple sources. This allows  you to verify evidence; contextualize information; find potential weaknesses. 

  • Step 1: Open another tab in your browser 
  • Step 2: Do a deliberate Google search for the source or information you are evaluating. 
  • Step 3: Read what trusted and reliable sources are saying about the site or claim. Try to find  four or five other sources that discuss your source. 

View a short tutorial on Lateral Reading

Click restraint 

Resist the urge to immediately click on links or search results and instead scan results to make an informed choice about which sources to examine first. 

  • Step 1: Pause before you click on any link. 
  • Step 2: Hover over the link to see where (which page) it will take you. 
  • Step 3: Think about applying any of the other skills that may help determine the authenticity of  the source.

Based on work by (McGrew & Glass, 2021) 

Reverse image search 

Conduct an image search to identify if the same image has been published on other webpages, taken out of context, or doctored.  

  • Step 1: Copy the image.  
  • Step 2: Open and click on the “search by image” icon. Note: if your browser does not support the search by image, you will need to download a reverse-image search app such as  Google Lens.  
  • Step 3: Paste the image or upload a saved image in the image box to determine where and  how often the image has been used. 

Based on work by (Aprin et al., 2022; Cao et al., 2020; Matatov et al., 2019) 

View a short tutorial on reverse image search

Monitoring emotional reactions to headlines 

Recognize and pay attention to how claims influence one’s emotions and be able to recognize when disinformation claims try to take advantage of these emotions.  

  • Step 1: Pause before you click. 
  • Step 2: Assess your emotional reaction. Pay particular attention if they evoke anger.  
  • Step 3: Assess if the information feels manipulative.  
  • Step 4: Consider applying the other skills to help determine the authenticity of the source. 

    Based on work by (Martel et al., 2020; Preston et al., 2021)

Use fact-checking resources 

Examine the credibility of claims by consulting professional fact- checking  resources. 

  • Step 1: Open a new tab in your browser. 
  • Step 2: Navigate to a trusted fact-checking site (e.g.,,, AP News). 
  • Step 3: Check the validity of the information using tools on these sites.

Reading upstream

Clicking on hyperlinks or following references in articles/stories to visit and review the original sources of summarized or paraphrased information.

  • Step 1: When encountering a link in an article or story. 
  • Step 2: Verify that this is a trusted source
  • Step 3: Take the time to go deeper and ensure that the summary represents the context and content of the original article