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Community Matters

Stay On Guard Against Election Misinformation

When you read something online, how do you know it’s true? Before the internet, Americans relied on credible sources like newspapers or broadcast TV to stay informed. Even with slight biases, there was an expectation that the information provided was accurate and helpful. When the world shifted online, it changed the way we consume and share news. Now, thousands of websites report stories as they happen, and people share them with their family and friends on social media. The problem, of course, is that not all these stories, pictures, or statistics are true. 

Staying informed through accurate, professional journalism is always crucial, but especially during an election year. This fall, voters will decide a presidential race of enormous consequence, as well as congressional power, governorships, and local measures. Before you choose who you’ll vote for, it is essential to have a truthful understanding about the issues facing our country and how each party has and will address them. 

Here's how to protect yourself and loved ones from misinformation. 

What, and Where, Is Misinformation?

Misinformation is defined as “incorrect or misleading information.” It is designed to distort your feelings and influence your behavior. Unfortunately, it can be effective, and its use has exploded in recent years.

While misinformation can be anywhere, it is commonly found within:

  • Social Media or Websites Social platforms offer limited oversight to the information that is shared among users, while suspicious websites can host illegitimate stories for people to discover.
  • Newspapers and Magazines This can include gossip, opinion pieces, and out-of-context quotes.
  • Television and Radio — Clips can be edited, and context can be omitted to shape a narrative.
  • Podcasts Unlike traditional news outlets, anyone can host a podcast and present inaccuracies as facts.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, misinformation can also appear in:

  • Interviews Consider the intentions of the interviewer and interviewee. Misinformation can come from twisted words or incomplete truths.
  • Speeches and Debates Misinformation can spread directly from speakers or through clips taken out of context.
  • One-On-One Conversations Family and friends can unintentionally spread false information. Always verify a news story before telling others about it. Likewise, if you’re told something that sounds strange, question where it was heard originally.

How to Spot Election Misinformation

When it comes to political news, credibility is everything. Reputable outlets like Telemundo, La Opinión, or CNN, for example, will present facts and avoid sensationalizing. If you don’t recognize the source of a headline or story, follow the steps below: 

  1. Check the organization and author(s) Look for reliable sources. Investigate the website, its mission, and the contact information.
  2. Read everything— Sometimes headlines are purposely outrageous to attract attention. Read beyond it to know the whole story better.
  3. Check the date — Make sure the story is relevant to current events.
  4. Cross-reference Verify information by checking multiple reputable news organizations.
  5. Look for red flags Be skeptical of sensationalist headlines, lack of evidence, satire, and anonymous sources.
  6. Consider your own beliefs and values — Pre-existing opinions can cloud your judgment. Seek out information that challenges your thinking, so long as it’s trustworthy.
  7. Ask Experts — Consult a fact checking site if you’re still unsure. 

To learn more about each presidential candidate’s stance on important issues from a credible source, click here.

A damaged American flag.

The Consequences

By spreading misinformation, bad actors both within and outside the United States seek to create division and impact our elections. For example, a headline can misrepresent the strength of the U.S. economy, which will likely cause voters to blame the political party in power. Alternatively, out-of-context statistics can make a politician’s record appear better than it truly is.

The spread of misinformation is happening right now all across the country, and unfortunately, it can be nearly impossible to avoid. Before November, expect to see common types of election misinformation like:

  • False Claims about voting processes Sharing misinformation on how and where to vote can discourage people from participating or lead them to make mistakes that invalidate their votes.
  • Fake news about candidates  Spreading lies or exaggerated claims about candidates can alter public feeling and influence voting behavior.
  • Manipulated poll data  Presenting fake or insufficient poll results can create a false sense of who is leading, affecting voter decisions.
  • Conspiracy theories  Spreading baseless claims can create paranoia and distrust in the electoral system, leading to unnecessary stress and fear.

Remember, misinformation is a weapon used to influence you, your loved ones, and your community. It can warp people’s worldviews and make them vote against their own interests. Take it seriously. 

Keeping Communities Healthy and Informed

AltaMed believes that civic engagement is a key component of community health. Do you have a voting plan? Our My Vote. My Health.™ program helps you verify your registration status and locate nearby voting centers. 

To find comprehensive health services available to you and your family, click here or call (888) 499-9303.

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Stay On Guard Against Election Misinformation