Election 2020: Lookout for Fake News Before and After the Election

Election 2020: Keep on the Lookout for Fake News Before and After the Election

As the news and conversations leading up to Election Day intensify, and with early voting already in full swing, the flood of misinformation and outright disinformation online continues—and will undoubtedly continue in the days after as the results are tabulated and announced.

Perhaps you’ve seen some instances of it yourself. For instance, one recent news story reported that numerous legitimate social media accounts have shared misinformation about the vote. An example: photos of old, empty election envelopes that were properly disposed of after the 2018 election, used to make the false claim that they were uncounted votes from the 2020 election. It’d be naïve for us to think that postings like this, and others, would suddenly come to a halt on Election Day.

We can expect election misinformation to continue even after Election Day

I touched upon this topic in my earlier blog about how misinformation online can undermine our election, yet it’s worthy of underscoring once again. It’s easy for our attention to focus on the days leading up to the election, however, this election stands to be like few others as the high volume of mail-in ballots may keep us from knowing who the certified victor is for possibly weeks after Election Day.
How that timeline plays out in practice remains to be seen, yet we should all prepare ourselves for a glut of continued misinformation and disinformation that aims to cloud the process. Feeds will get filled with it, and it’ll be up to us to make sense of what’s true and what’s false out there.

Who is fact checking posts on social media sites?

Sadly, much of onus for fact-checking will fall on us, particularly when 55% of Americans say they “often” or “sometimes” get their news via social media. There are a few reasons why:

• First, social media platforms are new to fact-checking and their processes are still developing, particularly around the transparency of their fact-checking methodology;
• Secondly, corporate leadership of the two major social media platforms have stated differing views about fact checking on their platforms;
• And third, the sheer volume of posts that these platforms pump out in any given day (or minute!) make it difficult to fact-check posts at scale.

Where does that leave us? In unprecedented times.

Historically, we’ve always had to be savvy consumers of news, where a balanced diet of media consumption allowed us to develop a clearer picture of events. Yet now, in a time of unfiltered social media, news comes to us from a multitude of publishers, bloggers, and individuals. And within that mix, it’s difficult to immediately know who the editorial teams behind those stories are—what their intentions, credentials, and leanings are—and if they’re drawing their information from bona fide, verified sources. The result is that we must read and view everything today with an increased level of healthy skepticism.

Fact-checking your news

That takes work, yet my recent blog on How to Spot Fake News and Misinformation in Your Social Media Feed offers you a leg up with several pointers to help you sniff out potential falsehoods.
In addition, here’s a short list of fact-checking resources that you can turn to when something questionable comes up in your feed. Likewise, they make for good browsing even if you don’t have a specific story that you want to check up on. You can keep these handy:

PolitiFact from the Poynter Institute
FactCheck.org from the Annenberg Public Policy Center
AP News Fact Check from the Associated Press
Reuters Fact Check from Reuters News
Snopes.com from Snopes Media Group

Stay vigilant

With the election just days away and a result that may not be declared at the end of Election Day, we all need to scrutinize the news that presents itself to us, particularly on social media. Fact-checking what you see and read, along with cross-referencing it with multiple, reputable sources, will help you get the best information possible—which is absolutely vital when it comes time to cast your ballot.


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