Posted on: March 20, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Graphic by Emily Stephens

By Juan Carbajal, Opinion Editor

As far back as 2016, there were claims that the Presidential election was interfered with by Russia, using Facebook and other social media to spread disinformation. In 2021, former President Donald Trump claimed the election was stolen, leading to an attack on the Capitol.

With misinformation being spread in wide circles online, it may seem overwhelming to sift through and pick out the facts. But it’s not impossible.

Some fundamental media literacy tips can help with filtering out misinformation from real news. They involve breaking down the posts, accounts and information being presented in simpler ways.

“Before you share something, It’s worth stopping for a minute, doing something to ask yourself why are you even sharing it,” said MV librarian Tish Hayes, who specializes in teaching digital literacy. “Anything that makes you feel a strong emotion, that’s usually when you want to repost something.”

Graphic by Emily Stephens

Hayes recommends not letting your emotions take control and instead stopping to consider what’s making you want to share something.

On top of plain misinformation, politicians can also spread political propaganda online to distort reality and mess with emotions.

“It’s different from deliberate misinformation because it has a purpose of opposing one thing and supporting the other strongly,” political science professor Kevin Navratil explained.

The timing of the propaganda can also help an audience determine what the goal of the messaging is, Navratil adds. And with that understanding, audiences can independently inform themselves and decide where to go from there. 

“Historically what have been the times disinformation has peaked are preceding elections, in moments of crisis, and in times of conflict,” Navratil said. “And it’s incumbent on us as citizens to put the messaging of authority in check.”

There are certain steps we can take to do so.

When a strange-looking Twitter account or a fishy news video on Instagram pops into your feed–which may suggest the source is legit–there are places to look to cross-reference.

According to Hayes, simply “checking places like Wikipedia, asking, ‘Is it a content farm?,’ and looking up if it’s a reliable source” makes it easier to answer the question: “Is this site known for information?” 

Hayes stresses looking up the people involved in any media post or article and their credentials, whether they be editors, writers, news presenters or publishers. This step helps determine source credibility.

Hayes also recommends fact-checking websites such as Snopes and AllSides. Snopes rates the validity of popular claims from True to False and AllSides explains how different sources across the political spectrum covered the same news, with descriptions of incongruities in reporting.

Cross-referencing sources for similarities is also helpful to spot “fake news” or information inconsistencies.

“One thing that I teach in my classes is lateral reading,” Hayes said. “It’s opening up another tab, checking another source and seeing if they match up.” Hayes further suggests “looking at additional sources, especially those you already know and trust.” 

If the sources tend to be reporting the same thing, then that is usually a sign that it is accurate, according to Hayes.

To combat misinformation, Hayes says that “if we all take a little bit of responsibility, then that can help the situation for sure.”