As we enter the 2020 political season, remember this: The internet is full of fake information and distortions. The Muller Report documents efforts by one government to influence U.S. elections with fake stories. Facebook is plagued with billions of bots and fake accounts, and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said it will not regulate fake political ads. Twitter will ban paid political ads but not other political commentary, even though MIT researchers have shown that lies travel faster and further on Twitter than does truth. Rand Corporation has chronicled what it calls “truth decay” in public life. The Pew Research Center notes partisan polarization produces distinct media consumption habits and conceptions of what are facts and truth.
We live in our own political bubbles and we cannot resist reposting information, even though so much is false. We do it because we are convinced that posts by friends, family or political parties must be true since they reinforce our deeply held prejudices or beliefs. Psychologists tell us confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance account for this tendency.
We are all complicit in producing fake news and alternative facts. The solution to combating it is easy — do not repost anything, ever.
Okay, so you cannot really resist this urge; what are other suggestions?
Do not repost something that has been reposted by someone else, even if you know that person. Do you know if he or she vetted the original post?
Do not repost anything by anyone you do not know personally.
Do not repost anything unless you have read the entire piece, and not simply the headline, and you know what the content is about.