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How to spot fake news as political season gets into full swing

Keys to sorting through onslaught of information on social media

DETROIT – We’re still a couple weeks away from the Michigan primary, but political season is already in full swing. It’s going to stay that way through November.

It’s important to be prepared for the onslaught of advertisements and news stories filling Facebook and Twitter news feeds. Some information is fake, but it’s not always easy to spot.

The year is already bursting with fast-breaking and emotionally charged news, and in the months ahead, it’ll come faster and hotter. Where should you go to get your political news?

Are your sources of information reliable?

It’s getting more difficult to sort fact from fiction, though. During the presidential campaigns in 2016, most of the nation became familiar with the phrase “fake news.” Much of the focus is on Facebook -- the largest social media service on the planet. Creator Mark Zuckerberg has long insisted that “fake news” isn’t a serious problem on Facebook.

A recent survey from the Pew Research Center found that 50% of Americans cite Facebook as their primary, and in many cases, only, source for news.

“I think it’s fair to say that we are in an epidemic of misinformation,” said Fergus Bell, a fact checking expert. “Perhaps not more misinformation, but certainly the access to it.”

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Bell teaches news reporters, writers and producers how to identify “fake news” and avoid sharing it, but he said everyone who posts information to social media bears responsibility.

“A lot of people share without actually reading the thing that they’re sharing," Bell said.

When it comes to misleading headlines and, in some cases, outright lies, what can we do to avoid getting sucked into believing or sharing misinformation?

“Are you operating in a bubble? You see the things that your friends share," Bell said. “What are other people saying? Is there an opposing view?”

Bell said there are always opposing views.

“No one is asking you to abandon your beliefs or your standards,” Bell said. “All we’re saying is look at what other people are saying. If it doesn’t change anything, fine. But it’s really useful to know what all sides of the argument are."

People get busy, careless, complacent, Bell said. He said trust is no longer an option, so take a few minutes to consider what you’re reading before hitting the share button.

During the 2020 news cycle, Local 4 is starting a new initiative to fight against misinformation campaigns.


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