Have you ever wondered how to discern news, opinion, misinformation, and disinformation from each other on social media? Jasmine Razeghi breaks down the fundamentals of media literacy you should be paying attention to this election season. 

According to the Pew Research Center, 55% of Americans often or sometimes get their information from social media. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, many who worked from home increased their social media usage. Social media websites are not news sources, they are gateways to news sources.

Nora Benevidez, Director of U.S. Free Expressions Programs at PEN America, went over key terms associated with disinformation and misinformation. Disinformation is presented as fact with the intention of deceiving the public, however, it is demonstrably false. 

An example of this would be a tweet that went under fire from a Twitter account claiming to be Rashida Tlaib. The fake account tweeted, “Americans have spent decades raping and pillaging my people. What goes around comes around. #FridayFeeling.” However, views did not note the absence of a verification checkmark beside her name. The account was fake, but it misled many to believe that it was real. 

Misinformation is false information created in error.

Misinformation is false information created in error. An example is a false headline. Distributors are often credible sources that make mistakes when they write and publish an article. An example of this would be a news organization making a correction, like CNN when it falsely claimed that Anthony Scaramucci was tied to a Russian investment fund. The news came from a credible source but was incorrect. 

Another term is the Illusory Truth Effect. It is the idea that the more we encounter something, the more we believe it. Repeated disinformation could become ingrained in our thinking. Fraudulent news shared repeatedly on social media becomes believable false information and spreads to a larger audience. 

It is important to fact-check and question anything you read. Fact-checking resources include the CDC, the WHO, AllSides, Snopes, and Politifact

Another tip is to be aware that OpEds are, of course, opinions. While it is important to read the opinions of others, it is just as important to remain conscious of the fact that it is an opinion and no one should interpret opinion as news.