Blog: Cui Bono

The Latin expression in the title can be a handy tool for guiding how we consume news and information online.

It’s pronounced kwee-bo-no. The dictionary defines it as:
1: a principle that probable responsibility for an act or event lies with one having something to gain;
2: usefulness or utility as a principle in estimating the value of an act or policy.

You can use cui bono to think about how information moves around. That includes news, facts, lies, myths, misinformation (wrong info), disinformation (intentionally wrong info), and even gossip. And with the internet being what it is that’s often more important than the information itself.

The thing to remember is to neither believe nor disbelieve what you’re reading, hearing or watching online. Rather, ask yourself how, when, why and where it was reaching you. Question your reactions and responses to it. Chances are someone is hoping that you reacted in a particular way – you clicked or shared, you read, watched, commented or ordered.

If you apply “cui bono,” it’s less about somebody manipulating or doing something to you and more about if, how or why you want to go along with it. You get to decide. If somebody’s going to gain something from your reaction it might as well be you at least in the form of awareness.

That’s a pretty useful principle.