Protecting against election misinformation: Some tips and defenses
With the help of the internet and social media, there are countless voices from every corner of the globe voicing moving ideas and compelling statements. But not everyone who shares has the best of intentions. The FBI recently released an official statement warning the public about foreign actors trying to lead potential voters astray with misinformation and incite public discord before Tuesday’s election:
“Foreign actors and cybercriminals could create new websites, change existing websites, and create or share corresponding social media content to spread false information in an attempt to discredit the electoral process and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions,” the FBI warned.
Here are some helpful guidelines regarding what to do and what not to do when consuming information from your social media feeds to protect yourself – and others — from false material.
Before you click that share button, think:
Who is posting this? What is their motive for sharing this information? If the account appears to be recently created or if it is difficult to find who the owner of the account is, this may be a red flag. Also, look at the overall purpose of the page. Are their goals clear? If they aren’t, can you make an educated guess based on the statements being made?
Is the content out of context? Especially with quotes and headlines, it’s essential to read the full story in context before believing or acting on a claim.
Are other sources giving the same claim? It’s useful to match the information from one source to a more reputable one, or even several others, to ensure the information is accurate. You may find the more reputable ones contradicting the more questionable source.
When you have any doubts, especially concerning the processes and official dates and locations for voting, don’t hesitate to contact your local election officials or check official online pages like the following for more information:
Election Protection for important voting deadlines in your state.
Verified Voting for information about voting equipment used in your state.
Vote411.org to learn about early voting, ID requirements, voting hours, and being a poll worker.
Vote.org to register to vote, check your registration status, find your polling station, or request an absentee ballot
Play your part:
You can play a role in stopping or preventing the spread of misinformation in two major ways.
Report suspicious behavior on online platforms or by contacting Election Protection, a national, non-partisan coalition of voting rights activists, at 866.OUR.VOTE. Here, election volunteers will record and monitor misinformation occurrences, alert officials and internet companies, and bring awareness to targeted demographics.
When you choose to retweet, share a post or a page, or talk about voting information with your virtual and real-life communities or news outlets, be sure that what you share is verifiable from an official source. When people take individual responsibility not to share misinformation, it makes a world of difference.