Misinformation, Disinformation, & You
Misinformation is a word you’re probably familiar with, but what about disinformation? Here’s the difference: You can think of misinformation as a rumor. It’s incorrect, but it’s not intentional. Disinformation is incorrect information that’s spread intentionally; sticking to the rumor mill analogy, disinformation is more like malicious gossip that spreads lies. Both can go viral organically through social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, but they can also be spread through families, misleading advertising, and community networks.
Misinformation and disinformation around elections are especially dangerous. Bad information might confuse people about their voting rights, leading them to not vote at all. Or it could spread incorrect ideas about what a candidate stands for. It could even propagate incorrect assumptions about election results.
Arizona has been a hotbed of misinformation since the 2020 election and in the aftermath of the election audit, some election officials have started to step down. The Brennan Center found that 1 in 5 local election officials are very/somewhat unlikely to stay in their jobs until the next presidential election, with the reasons cited including disinformation attacks on the electoral system. It’s no surprise considering that even some of Arizona’s own politicians are spreading disinformation about the 2020 election’s validity.
How to Combat Misinformation
As we approach the mid-term elections, it’s critical to have strategies to combat misinformation.
1. Double-check before you share something.
It can be tempting to share a radical piece of news that validates what you’ve been thinking and feeling. But it’s better to make sure it’s true. If the information appears in more than one news outlet, and especially if it appears in news outlets with different biases (such as Fox News and NBC), it’s more likely that that news is valid.
2. Read news for bias.
With that said, it’s important to understand what angle journalists are coming from. No matter how hard they may try to stay neutral, everyone has a bias. You can tell bias through the charged language people use as well as the sources they choose to cite. You can even visit the hyperlinked sources to ensure that any statistics, data, and quotes aren’t taken out of context. Check out our post on media literacy for more information about bias.
3. Take action when you see misinformation on social media.
Social media companies are becoming aware of the negative impact content can have when it goes viral. Facebook gives users the option to report fake news and Twitter prompts users when they engage with misinformation.
If you want to hear more about how misinformation poses a threat to our electoral system, listen to our newest episode of the Voices of Colibri podcast. In the meantime, keep your eyes and ears open for misinformation and disinformation. You can protect your community by staying vigilant about fake news.