Crash Course

Absolutely anyone can fall victim to disinformation or manipulation, and everyone has been exposed to it. This problem is not limited to a particular political philosophy or demographic. Here are some key points you need to know:

1. Social media companies get rich by making us angry and afraid

Their algorithms (in other words, how they determine what shows up on your news feed) are designed to draw us in with increasingly extreme content in order to keep our attention and get clicks.  

2. Disinformation-spreaders know how to exploit these algorithms by pushing our buttons.

Whenever we feel angry or outraged over something we've seen online, we need to take a step back and be skeptical of that content.

3. A "blue checkmark" or verified account just means someone is famous, not trustworthy.  There are plenty of famous people, including some politicians and commentators, who are actively engaged in the business of amplifying disinformation, or who unintentionally repeat disinformation.

4. Repetition isn't truth.  Just because a lot of people are saying something over and over again (and even that might be artificial amplification!) doesn't mean that it's true.

5. "Inspirational" or "empowering" social media accounts can be fronts for a disinformation or manipulation operation.  They gain our trust with the positive posts and then post disinformation or manipulative content every so often--disinformation and manipulation that we are now primed to believe because of our trust in the account.

6. We can protect ourselves by following a few simple rules.  

  • DON'T comment on, respond to (even with emojis), or repeat, disinformation, even to debunk it, because that amplifies the disinformation and ensures that even more people see it;

  • DO report disinformation to the site as well as to ReportDisinfo.org;

  • Never click on recommended content or join suggested groups, and disable notifications to reduce time spent online;

  • Be very skeptical of any content eliciting a strong emotional response that creates a desire to act and/or share that content;

  • Seek credible sources of information (remember, a "verified" account just means the person is famous, not trustworthy, and repetition alone doesn't mean information is credible);

  • Learn how to spot disinformation and manipulative content by visiting KNOWDISINFO.ORG; and

  • Follow the "Beware What You Share" rule to stop the spread 

  • of disinformation.