Real or fake? Ways to avoid the spread of misinformation during election season

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Election season tends to bring with it a surge of politically-charged posts on social media — including ones with false information.

Samuel Woolley, an assistant professor at the University of Texas and one of the leads of the university’s propaganda research program, said there are a few steps you can take to know the difference between what’s real and what’s fake.

“When people see disinformation or misinformation floating around, the best thing they can do is go to organizations like Snopes, or the Associated Press or other fact-checking entities, groups like First Draft that work to vet information and share better information with people,” Woolley explained.

While the spread of fake information is nothing new, the age of social media has amplified the way it is distributed.

“Nowadays with social media, the amount of fake information out there during an election season is way higher than it would have been in the ’90s even,” Woolley said.

When it comes to sharing articles, Woolley said to make sure you do more than just read the headline.

“I think that there’s a tendency today with the advent of social media and the sound bite and all of this stuff, to read a small portion of it and then to share it, but I think if we’re going to share it, I think that we should read the whole thing and try to glean what we can from it in terms of the big picture message,” Woolley said.

He added that we should consume our news similar to the ‘slow food’ approach, which aims at digesting the best and high-quality foods.

“With slow journalism, what you would do is consume the best, high-quality journalism so read the Sunday newspaper, tune into the best broadcast,” Woolley said, “I would say that we should all challenge ourselves to be more omnivorous in the way that we approach news, so read things from both the right and the left and the center.”

It’s important to know the difference between real articles and fake, because newer technology on the rise is going to make things even more difficult to decipher.

“Deep fake videos are among the most concerning and scary ways,” Woolley said. Deep fake videos can make it look like someone said or did something they never said or done.

“There’s been examples of Donald Trump, Barrack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg…saying or doing things that they never said, and we have to be on the lookout for these things,” Woolley said.

While you might want to avoid engaging in arguments over social media, Woolley encourages everyone to have conversations with loved ones who might have different opinions or views. He said this can help depolarize certain issues.

“Psychology research behind it shows that if you talk to your son or your daughter if you talk to your grandparents, you might change your feelings on it, which I think is best,” Woolley said.

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