Fact-checking the ‘tsunami’ of misinformation flooding the web before the election

Election 2020
Colorado officer on leave over threatening comments on Facebook; 'now's the true time to be afraid'

FILE – In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo an iPhone displays a Facebook page in New Orleans. Social media platforms are facing intense, often contradictory demands from Washington to oversee internet content without infringing on First Amendment rights. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

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NEW YORK — When a university professor recently predicted a record-setting 150 million Americans will vote in the upcoming presidential election, it hammered home how many people are out there to be influenced.

“We’re being bombarded now with advertisements, with social media,” said Alan Miller, a Pulitzer-prize winner and director of the News Literacy Project.

“Misinformation is not only a threat to our public life, but to our public health,” he noted.

So Miller’s organization recently created three public service announcements in English and Spanish designed to get voters to be cautious about the “tsunami” of political posts flooding the web.

“We need to be on the lookout for fraudulent content that masquerades as the real deal,” one PSA warns.

The Spanish-language PSA reminds voters they need to check “una variedad fuentes de noticias,” a variety of news sources.

Aside from an abundance of conspiracy theories showing up on news feeds, Miller also spoke of foreign agents, like Russia or China, that “are active with disinformation, seeking to inflame and divide us.”

He said voters have a responsibility not to blindly share a story simply because it seems interesting.

“Part of hitting that ‘pause’ button is not to immediately share or ‘like’ or forward, because this viral information cannot get the reach it gets without us — often inadvertently — infecting others,” Miller said.

Miller’s website, Newslit.org/Election2020, can help voters navigate a sometimes confusing election cycle.

He has concerns about attempts to suppress voter turnout.

He encouraged voters to not be fooled “by misinformation suggesting they can vote by text….or that their polling place has been closed or moved.”

For the record, you can’t vote by text.

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