As news circulates of Russia’s intentions for interference in the 2020 election, Americans would be wise to become more skeptical of information circulated through social media networks. Though Russia relies on troll factories and armies of bots, much of this disinformation we see circulating is actually generated and circulated by Americans at home.
To improve your ability to determine whether the information you’re about to like or share is real, it’s best to approach with a healthy degree of skepticism. Below is a guide with some pointers on how to avoid becoming a weapon in the growing disinformation war.
Where did the information come from?
Ask yourself, what is the source? How/where did that source acquire its information?
Have you heard of the website the information is posted on? Is there any information about who owns it? Try googling the name of the website to see if there is any information on its legitimacy. What is its reputation?
Is it a Facebook group? Who owns it? The people running Facebook groups may not actually be who they say they are. For instance, military veterans are often targeted by fake veterans groups on Facebook, as indicated in a recent report by the real Vietnam Veterans of America organization. Russian trolls often masquerade as official American organizations on social media, so exercise caution.
Photos can also be presented out of context. Google reverse image search can be a useful tool for determining the original source of a photo, including when it was first posted. Just click the camera icon to do it.
Websites from either political extreme are not trustworthy. RT and Sputnik are Russian propaganda websites. Avoid health news and science news from sites that are not well-established, credible sites backed by a trustworthy organization. Use only medical/scientific information from well-known scientific or medial health sites. For pandemic related info, especially as the Wuhan corona virus spreads, check the Center for Disease Control.
Use a fact checker
Use an established, well-known fact checker to quickly determine whether information is real. Fact checkers cut the major work out for you, documenting the reasoning that leads them to confirm whether something is real or fake. Good fact checking websites present sources and evidence that lead them to their conclusions. Checking them first will often save you some trouble. Some examples include Snopes, FactCheck.org, the Washington Post Fact Checker, and Politifact. Media Bias Fact Check can be useful for determining the potential bias or legitimacy of a news source.
Check to see if others are also sharing this information. Are those sources trustworthy? The more information is corroborated by traditional trustworthy sources, the more legitimate the information may be….