Sometimes I feel like a coward on social media, hiding behind “likes” and “sad faces” of those friends brave enough to call out others that we disagree with. But then I thought, maybe our bravery comes in fighting back against the urge to always respond. While I don’t agree with spreading inaccurate or inflamed information, there can be more helpful ways to limit this spread without allowing more eyes to view it.
So how can we combat disinformation? How can we stop our dads and grandmothers from reading and sharing articles as if they are factual news? As Katie Couric says in her podcast Next Question, “Put on your cape’s, democracy heroes!” You are a troll buster, and here’s your training.
Be skeptical of anything that makes extremely explosive claims. Be skeptical of anything that takes one event and turns it into a pattern from “they.” Be sure to apply the same skepticism to information you support, as information you don’t agree with.
Share Helpful Information
Flood your own feed with accurate information. Share websites like Can I Vote.org that direct people to the right voting information for their state. Or share information from the ND Department of Health for COVID-19 and other health-related information. When you do share information, make sure it is from a reputable source that can be verified.
Combat the urge to reply or debunk or call-out every piece of content that you see online. Any response that you give to a piece of social media content will be read as engagement (even if you attempt to share helpful information in a comment). Social media algorithms will read that engagement and push it in front of other individuals. Even a “sad” or a “mad” face will tell the social media platform that something is highly engaging content and signal it to come up in more people’s feeds. (Not sure what engagement and algorithms are? Check out this post on algorithms and this one on engagement.)
Instead, flag it within the platform if it is false information (and if you choose, private message the sharer with fact-checked information if you truly feel the need to share more). Facebook, Twitter and most other platforms have processes where you can report disinformation when it comes to voting and election content.
To report a post as false news on Facebook:
- Click the three dots (…) next to the post you’d like to mark as false.
- Click Find Support or Report Post.
- Click False News, then click Next.
- Click Done.
- Report it to the disinformation experts at Common Cause.
As hard as it is to not respond sometimes, my sad faces, thumbs-ups and mad faces are likely helping to spread the information I wish wasn’t out there to begin with. Sometimes no response may be the best response to stop the spread of disinformation (or at least limiting it to a private response where the content won’t continue to be shared).
Can’t fight that urge to respond? Maybe you need to take a break from certain people on Facebook, or take a Facebook break altogether. Just need to gripe without providing the algorithm with engagement data? Take a screen shot and text it to a friend and do some private griping.
Go ahead, use all the emojis you want. 😳😤🤣