How to spot misinformation leading into the 2018 midterms

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Who really is writing that social media post?

Let’s face it: There’s a lot of bad information on social media. It makes it a lot harder on all of us to get good, factual information–something we all need going into the November midterms.

The Russia investigation by Bob Mueller, among other things, has helped our understanding of how the Russians spread disinformation leading up to the 2016 election and is a helpful guide for us as we look for those same tactics this fall.

Here’s a short and clear video as to how they operate; (hat tip to the AoC Checklist for the link):

If you want to look at some of the actual tweets that this group sent out, head over to the article Why We’re Sharing 3 Million Russian Troll Tweets over at FiveThirtyEight.

So, misinformation is out there. We haven’t done nearly enough in this country since 2016 to think that this isn’t still happening all over social media. So we need to be on the lookout.

It gets more complicated by the fact that there are many people who aren’t Russian trolls who use social media in a way to further divide us: GOP who want to misrepresent what Democratic opponents believe or what they want to accomplish; media outlets both large and small using click-baity headlines and stories to rack up views on their sites; people with opposing views acting like trolls to demoralize us or get us to disengage from politics; and sadly, even those folks on our side who are saying emotionally charged things just for clicks, likes, and even making a buck.

Keep in mind that the truly nefarious trolls have clear goals: They want to create divisions among Americans and have us distrust the election process.

So what can we do?

I’ll tell you what I do. There are two red flags that I’m constantly on the lookout for:

When I see someone who I believe is on my side who is constantly criticizing Democrats, I pause. Is all of their ire focused on Democrats instead of Republicans? Are they a disgruntled or disillusioned Democrat or are they a troll hoping to get a reaction or further disillusion others? I will choose to engage or ignore based on what I think is going on.

I’m very suspicious of social media posts that discourage voting–by saying it is rigged or our votes don’t matter because of voter suppression, etc. Are there issues with our election process, yes. Absolutely. I write about voting rights and voter suppression on this blog quite a bit. But, not voting doesn’t help. Not one bit. No one who truly believes in our democracy should think that not voting is the way to go.

That said, I fully understand that there are disagreements on our side. We don’t all agree on how we should accomplish some of the goals we have. Some want to go big or go home, others want to move more methodically, etc. But at the end of the day, our disagreements are primarily about how to achieve the goal, not the goal itself. Whereas we really don’t agree with the goals that Republicans have for this country. That is something we have in common.

We need rational, civil people on social media. My hope is that the video, the archived tweets, and my suggestions will help guide how you want to approach your time on social media as we march towards the November midterms.

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