How to Outsmart Election Disinformation

It’s time to talk about misinformation. You already know it’s all around us, but understanding how to recognize and defend against it is one of the most important aspects of being an informed and active voter.

What is the difference between disinformation and misinformation?

  • disinformation is false information intentionally created and shared by people to knowingly cause harm — such as Russian actors attempting to interfere in a US election.
  • misinformation is also false information, but the people sharing it don’t know it’s fraudulent — like your uncle sharing a questionable meme on Facebook. systematic disinformation campaigns can become misinformation when users continue to accept and pass on false messages without knowing it.

The key trends in misinformation and disinformation in the 2022 midterm elections

When the COVID-19 pandemic first swept the country in 2020, state and national election administrators scramble to change the rules to make voting as safe and accessible as possible. Postal voting exploded. Early voting has started. In the fast-paced environment, misinformation thrived.

After the vote, lies about a stolen election spread like wildfire. When rules are changing rapidly, it can be really difficult to keep up with what’s legal and what’s not — and people who spread lies rely on it.

The misinformation and disinformation that led to the Midterms fall into two broad categories, lies about the elections themselves and lies about candidate and party platforms:

  • Distortions about the actual political positions of candidates and parties are also spreading. This is a story as old as time. For as long as there have been elections, people have lied to voters and misled them about their opponents in order to get elected. In particular, experts fear that Spanish-language misinformation and disinformation could sway Latino voters in the 2022 midterm elections.

How do I know if something is fake news?

Here are some tips and tools that can help you rate online content.

research. There are a number of reliable places to check the facts you see online and offline. Some are standalone projects, such as:

While others connect directly to trusted news sources such as:

ProPublica also operates the Politwoops database, which you can use to look up deleted tweets from US politicians.

Look at the publication. If you see a inflammatory political article from a news site that you have never heard of before, you can use the following points to determine whether the site is legit or not:

  • does it have one about us Side?
  • does it have one mailing address at the bottom?
  • Does it have a Wikipedia page?

Do a reverse image search. If you see a photo online of a ballot box on the back of a random van, or an image claiming to be evidence of voter fraud, go to, click the camera icon and paste the image link or download it photo up . This should give you information on where else the image was posted.

Practice emotional skepticism. You are more likely to believe a false story that confirms your beliefs about the world than a false story that doesn’t. This may sound obvious to you, but many people are prone to fabricated content because of our biases, and fake content usually tries to play on our emotions.

Misinformation thrives especially during elections. In past elections, ProPublica and its partners found:

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions has created a checklist for identifying fake news. Keep it handy as the election approaches and wild demands flow freely.

Misinformation and disinformation thrive in confusion, such as when states change election laws

According to a report by First Draft and the Brennan Center for Justice, more than half of all US states have passed laws restricting or expanding voting access since early 2021, including “laws restricting access to absentee voting, shrinking Dropbox numbers, creating stricter requirements for voter ID; and elimination of same-day voter registration.” According to the report, the risks here are that voters may mistakenly believe that the laws respond to voter fraud risks that don’t actually exist, and that new rules and unfamiliar ones Conditions create a window for bad actors to sow confusion.

On an individual level, the best defense against this is to learn about your state’s voting rules. The FiveThirtyEight news agency has put together an excellent resource to help you understand how voting law has changed in your state and specifically if voting is becoming more difficult there.

What are the different types of misinformation and disinformation?

In 2018, First Draft News, an organization of specialists in collecting and verifying social news, classified seven different types of misinformation and disinformation swirling around our information ecosystem, ranging from satire or parody to fabricated or manipulated content:

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