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How to fight fake news on social media

by Baylie Clevenger The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte's editorial board. It was revealed recently that Facebook failed to stop meddling in the 2016 election. Russian bots were using Facebook as a way to spread fake information in an attempt to sway voters. Facebook is no stranger to scandal, as earlier this year it was discovered that Facebook failed to stop a third-party analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, from accessing user information. User privacy has been a common issue with Facebook. There has even been speculation that Facebook and Instagram utilize user’s cell phones and other electronic devices to listen to them and then personalize ads for them.

Image from CNBC
Cambridge Analytica gained access to personal information on more than 50 million Facebook accounts, as reported by the New York Times. This information was then used to sway voters in the 2016 presidential election. As the 2018 midterm elections have just passed, Facebook was criticized again for about 100 accounts that were suspected to be meddling in the election. USA Today reported that there was activity in French, English, and also Russian. The difference with this incident is that most of the accounts were on Instagram. Of the suspicious accounts that were removed, 30 of them were on Facebook but about 85 of them were on Instagram. The phenomenon of suspicious accounts and election meddling is usually associated with Facebook. What users commonly overlook is that Facebook owns Instagram. Facebook-owned Instagram is just as likely to have false information and suspicious content as Facebook. So how do users of both Facebook and Instagram fight back against political meddling and false information?

Stay informed

One of the best ways to counteract the spread of suspicious information is to keep yourself in the loop with unbiased news sources. Some of my personal favorites are The Associated Press, NPR and USA Today. All of these media outlets have apps and websites as well, so they are easily accessible. For more information on unbiased sources, consult the chart below.
Image from Ad Fontes Media

Take some time to check facts

In an age where information is flying at us every minute of every day, it is difficult to understand what is and is not true. If you find yourself unsure of the information that you have been presented, especially on social media, do a few simple Google searches and try to find information from reputable sources. This article cites other fact-checking sources that are readily available to anyone with internet access. They cite sources like Media Bias/Fact Check News and PolitiFact. Fact-checking is tedious and an annoyance to the social media experience, but it allows users to obtain unbiased information.
Image from Capital Research Center

Actively denounce false information

If you find any kind of media that contains false information, be sure to share with your friends and/or followers that it is incorrect. Take time to remind others that false information can be spread anywhere, even places that might not be suspected. False information cannot be stopped completely when information is shared so easily, but everyone can take simple steps to analyze the information found on social media. Associations between social media platforms are important to remember when considering information that is presented on such sites, as skewed information can stretch across platforms. Social media is great for staying informed as long as users do it responsibly and don’t take all information on social media at face value.
Sources: Byte BSU, New York Times, USA Today, Ad Fontes Media, MakeUseOf Images: CNBCAd Fontes MediaCapital Research Center Featured Image: Evan Williamson