COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — With just 64 days before the midterm elections, voters need to be aware of the misinformation that flows on social media.
Ohio State University communications professor Kelly Garrett said the key to avoid misinformation is knowing the warning signs. Garrett said he doesn’t see the spread of false information stopping any time soon.
“I do not think it’s going away, and I don’t think that should be the bar,” Garrett said.
Relatively, the amount of misinformation on social media is not too large, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful, Garrett said. There are two signs of misinformation to keep an eye out for:
- If the post is too outrageous to be real.
- If the post triggers a strong emotional reaction.
“People who manufacture false claims that they’re trying to get people to share and fall for often use extreme, angering claims,” Garrett said.
He said if something you see sparks a reaction, there are ways to verify whether the information you’re reading is true. Garrett also said it is best to use multiple sources.
“You might want to do some double checking, look at sources,” Garrett said. “And make sure it’s a variety of sources, some traditional news outlets and maybe some sources you have experience with that you trust.”
Garrett said social media platforms have made changes within the past several years to slow the spread, but he does not think eliminating misinformation completely should be the bar — he said it is a tricky balance and it is important not to censor.
“If you were to say we are going to shut down all misinformation, then you have to make a decision about what kinds of information you’re going to shut down and that risks inadvertently shutting down legitimate debates around what is real and what’s not,” Garrett said.
Garrett said misinformation can also be spread by people with large platforms, like politicians, so even their posts could be worth a double check.