Social media outlets are working to stop the spread of misinformation. In late 2019, Twitter announced it would ban political ads, while Facebook has enacted a practice of flagging articles disputed by third-party fact-checkers.
However, Peggy Rupprecht, an assistant professor in Department of Computer Science, Design and Journalism at Creighton University, believes the responsibility does not fall solely on social media outlets, saying everyone could take pause before sharing an article.
“It is up to news consumers to be savvy and educated about what they are seeing and reading, especially in an online environment,” Rupprecht said. “If you’re reading something, and it makes you really angry or upset, take a closer look at the story.”
A recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center shows that both Democrats and Republicans are concerned about the influence of false news in the 2020 election, and each party expects to be targeted more than the other.
But, there are methods to verify and check the authenticity of information, says Rupprecht.
» Source the information: Use search engines to determine if the information is coming from additional, reputable news organizations. Be mindful of websites masquerading as credentialed news organizations.
» Check the facts: FactCheck.org is a website that verifies statements from political candidates and office-holders.
» Debunk rumors: Snopes.com aggregates false stories circulating online.
» See something, say something: Report misinformation on social media to the platform. Most social media platforms offer a drop-down menu option to report posts that spread misinformation.
According to Rupprecht, one of the most important techniques for avoiding fake news is to broaden consumption across a wide variety of credible sources in order to help guard against false information. In some cases, the difference between a real website and a fake one can be extremely subtle.
“Sometimes, the URL is slightly different than a legitimate organization, so somebody may actually believe that they are seeing something from a news source that isn’t credible at all,” Rupprecht said. “As consumers of news, it is really important that we are educated about what we are reading and seeing.”