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CHRIS MOORE — Don’t fall for fake election news designed to polarize us

While it is easy to for people to discern that the ghouls and goblins running around your neighborhood in search of sweets aren’t real, studies show the real fear should be what shows up on social media feeds as we near the election.

Last month, the FBI issued a public service announcement warning people of foreign actors creating stories in an attempt to discredit the results of Tuesday’s election tallies.

These types of stories are not usually peddled by reputable sources and are often spread by social media among individuals who believe the story or conspiracy agrees with their worldview.

While not everyone will share the story, many will see the headlines and parrot it in daily conversations, continuing the spread of misinformation.

The PSA says the time immediately following the election could be when people are most vulnerable.

“State and local officials typically require several days to weeks to certify elections’ final results in order to ensure every legally cast vote is accurately counted,” the announcement said. “The increased use of mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 protocols could leave officials with incomplete results on election night. Foreign actors and cybercriminals could exploit the time required to certify and announce elections’ results by disseminating disinformation that includes reports of voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud and other problems intended to convince the public of the elections’ illegitimacy.”

A few ways we can be more vigilant in spotting fake news:

  • Check the source. Seek to see if the information can be found from multiple reputable sources, such as local and/or state officials and verified news outlets.
  • Consider the source. Reputable sources do not often have names that are aligned with political parties or ideologies. We wouldn’t get information about how many people die from diseases carried by mosquitoes from MosquitoesRule.com. They might have accurate information, but it is likely going to be slanted in favor of the thirsty little bloodsuckers.
  • Do not spread information that could be false. If you are unsure about the information, it is better to not share it at all. If it has any value, the people on the timeline will come across it organically.
  • Read the whole story. Many social media sites are now encouraging people to read the entire article. We all have that friend who tells you the news based on what they saw in a headline, but fail to give you any more information when asked further questions. Don’t be that friend. Facebook has added a fact check under many shared stories. That is a good start, but do not just rely on it.

 

  • Be self-aware. We often associate with people who are like-minded, which means the information they share on social media is likely going to be seen by people who are more prone to believe it because it agrees with our worldview. Shares and likes do not equal validation.

One of the things that typically separates us from other countries is our belief in our election process. If we lose that, we are in for an even more chaotic future.

 

Chris Moore is the sports editor for Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at chris.moore@panews.com.