We are facing the most important election of our lifetimes.
In the midst of the Covid pandemic, more of us are online than ever before.
Direct door-to-door canvassing, talking face-to-face with voters, is not an option in many places.
In addition to phone banking, texting and writing there are a few simple and important things that social media users can do to reach voters and help shape the messages that our communities see.
1. Amplify the truth.
First and foremost, it is more important than ever that we work together to amplify the truth, that we use our posts and shares to help direct people to trusted and accurate sources of voter information. Rules for voting vary by state and country. When you see posts questioning the voting process or casting doubt on the legitimacy of some methods of voting, share legitimate sources. For voting-related questions and information, share iwillvote.com
Following the election, the climate will be ripe for disinformation about vote counts, the legitimacy of counting votes, the results. Here are some sources for post-election information:
Count Every Vote - a non-partisan campaign started by Issue One, a group focused on reducing the role of money in politics
Election Integrity Partnership - a coalition of research entities focused on supporting real-time information between election officials, government agencies, civil society organizations and social media platforms
If you are "fighting back" against posts that are attempting to cast doubt on the voting process, remember that responding, even to provide a truthful rebuke, will also amplify the disinformation. Another option is to amplify the truth in your own posts and encourage others to amplify those posts.
2. Verify, verify, verify.
Verify everything you share. It is too easy and tempting to click "share" on something that's false, or written to promote a specific agenda or point of view. Often it's the headline grabbers that make us feel the urge to share. This can happen on both sides -- we can easily share "news" that appeals to our own confirmation bias or to our sense of moral outrage. And every time we share, we amplify.
Remember the kid with the MAGA hat?
Here are two questions to ask before sharing:
What is the original source? Is the source valid? Is it reputable? What else has the source published?
Has this been fact-checked and/or debunked?
In addition to these sources, the era of disinformation has given rise to expert disinformation-debunkers. Check their Twitter accounts to distinguish fiction from truth:
@JaneLytv - Jane Lytvynenko - Senior Reporter, Buzzfeed
@BrandyZadrozny - Brandy Sadrozny - Reporter, NBC
@donie - Donie O'Sullivan - Reporter, CNN
@3r1nG - Erin Gallagher - Internet Researcher
@conspirator0 - Conspirador Norteño - Data Scientist, Twitter data visualizer extraordinaire
3. Amplify the candidates and topics you support.
Why are we so bad at amplifying our own side? Do we think the truth speaks for itself and doesn't need amplification? That's false. Donald Trump often has a huge share of the voice on Facebook because people amplify (like, comment on, share) his posts.
Show the candidates and topics you care about some social media love. Then share and amplify.
4. See what's trending (aka what are we up against?)
While we are in Election Season, disinformation will be relentless and continuously changing to meet the shifting news and events of the moment. One difference between 2020 and 2016 is that brilliant minds are working nonstop to shine a light on disinformation trends and making their findings available in real-time. First Draft News maintains a dashboard for the 2020 US Elections that will be active up through Inauguration Day. Visit the dashboard for insights on what's trending.
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In order to amplify the truth, it's important to know what disinformation is filling the virtual airwaves. CrowdTangle is an insights tool from Facebook compiles Facebook and Instagram post interactions in real-time. The team at CrowdTangle has create a set of dashboards for topics related to the 2020 Election, including voting mentions in English and Spanish. Check these dashboards to see what posts and messages are attracting the most attention.
(click image or text to launch site)