Circular Reporting

coati

Echo Chamber by colin raney

In source criticism, circular reporting or false confirmation is a situation where a piece of information appears to come from multiple independent sources, but in fact is coming from only one source. In most cases, the problem happens mistakenly through sloppy intelligence gathering practices, but in a few cases, the situation is intentionally caused by the original source. This problem occurs in variety of fields, including intelligence gathering, journalism, and scholarly research. It is of particular concern in military intelligence because the original source has a higher likelihood of wanting to pass on misinformation, and because the chain of reporting is more liable to being obscured.

Wikipedia is sometimes criticized for being used as a source of circular reporting, and thus advises all researchers and journalists to be wary of using it as a direct source, and to instead focus on verifiable information found in an article’s cited references. In 2008 an American student edited wikipedia in jest, writing that the coati (a small mammal in the raccoon family) was ‘also known as….the Brazilian aardvark,’ resulting in many subsequently citing and using that unsubstantiated nickname as part of the general consensus, including an article in ‘The Independent.’

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