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Conflicts, Military and WarTruth vs. Misinformation, Voters Must Navigate Online US Election News With Care

Truth vs. Misinformation, Voters Must Navigate Online US Election News With Care

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Online, everyone has an opinion about everything, including important matters like the upcoming 2024 US election. With an effortless tap or click, a person can share what they believe, or what they want others to believe, with the entire world.

For voters, this poses a bit of a problem. Figuring out whether an opinion is just that, or is backed up by truth, is a constant uphill battle. Opinions and updates concerning anything from presidential rally dates to election betting odds are written up every few hours or minutes. You simply don’t have the time to read everything, never mind trying to determine whether what you just read would later be considered “fake news”.

Why extra care is worth the effort

It should go without saying that who sits in the highest seat in the United States Oval Office matters. Hopefully, everyone can agree that determining fact from fiction before the voting day is a worthwhile effort. For immensely important events such as the US election, extra care must be taken to fact-check and verify sources. If this due diligence isn’t done, you, and everyone you know, might end up voting one way or another based on completely made-up ideas and figures.

Democracies rise and fall based on how well-informed their voting-age population is. If everyone were to take what they read online about the character and political stances of candidates at face value, many decisions would get made based on half-truths and sometimes even outright lies. There are real-world consequences to consider here, and it’s becoming a matter of national security. It’s now a well-documented fact that outside influences have attempted to manipulate voters and election results before.

How did we get here?

In some ways, it has always taken some effort to be an informed voter, no matter where a person lives in the world. Since democracy began, many have, for many reasons, failed to fully understand why exactly their vote matters. You have to care about changing your country for the better, and do the work yourself, to understand which candidate is working to change things in a way that aligns with your values.

But even the segments of the population that do care about voting are now having a hard time figuring out which candidate is for them. Misinformation is everywhere online, and artificial intelligence is making it worse. Social media sites have made it so much more challenging to see where the lines between fact and fabrication begin and conclude. Sensational titles are more compelling to read than stuffy Reuters or CNN reports. People are very likely to only read news from sources that are already biased towards their existing opinions. Holding on to unbalanced opinions that don’t truly consider all possible angles or sides does not make for an informed voter.

What can be done?

People definitely shouldn’t give in to despair or give up all hope that their vote even matters too quickly. It’s more work to find the truth, sure. But the positive news is it’s not outright impossible. With a small amount of practice, a critical eye, and an understanding of how to go about fact-checking sources, the truth can be found.

Trust should be earned

The main, golden rule is this: don’t trust everything you read, the moment you read it. This doesn’t mean you should trust nothing and nobody. It just means that you should be wary that what you’re reading may exist to further an agenda. As a general rule, the news you see on social media sites like TikTok, X, and especially Facebook, probably won’t come with a link to a more reliable source like Reuters or the BBC. If there’s no link, don’t trust it completely.

Check and verify

When you read something sensational, take a moment to check the facts you just learned. Some tools and sites can make fact-checking simpler. Snopes is a popular tool for the verification of facts and a popular place to start. Alternatively, to determine if a piece of information is true, see if other sites and sources have also mentioned or reported on the same story. Cross-referencing is a common tactic journalists use to check their facts.

Look for bias

If recognizable sites like CNN have reported on the news, but framed the negative point you just read as a positive, this is a good sign that more research is a must. Personal biases are all over these days. To truly understand what’s going on and avoid being manipulated, try your best to read reports and blogs that offer up a more complete, balanced picture of what happened.

Follow the sources

Concrete evidence and verifiable data from a credible source are almost always a good sign that a piece of information can be trusted. Quotes are also good, especially if the same quote comes up in news reports from international news sites. Always click on sources to see where they lead. If they take you nowhere useful, don’t trust the original article as truly factual.

All this sounds like a lot of work that unfortunately cannot be avoided if you’re truly interested in finding out the whole truth before deciding who to vote for in the upcoming US election. For the truth to come to light and stay there in your mind, it must be done.

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Shivam Chopra
Shivam Chopra
A news/editorial staff member at The Eastern Herald. Studied Mass Communication. Writing and publishing entertainment, world politics, current affairs, international relations, policy, economy, business, and social news from around the world.

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