“FAKE NEWS!” It’s everywhere. It’s at the top of everyone’s minds, whether you’re reading about it in the latest headline at a major news publication or it’s part of a political figure’s latest tweet. Misinformation is taking center stage in 2020. This election remains to be one of the most competitive elections many Americans have seen in their lifetimes. With the state of our democracy on the lines, people are more attuned to recognizing it and more importantly — combatting it.
Whether it’s your neighbor or the Russian Internet Research Agency, everyone is putting in their two cents for this election. There’s a mountain of information being distributed, making it all the more important to ensure what you’re sharing is accurate.
Social media is the first layer in the complex mix of misinformation. This ties back to the concept of a social media echo-chamber, where people tend to surround themselves with content that they agree with. It makes it incredibly easy to click share on a photo or quote you like. So easy a Facebook post from September 7th went viral saying that the AARP is sending money to the Democratic Party, (they’re not). Even the current POTUS has shared some fake news, such as a tweet claiming Barack Obama was the first “ex-President to ever speak against his successor”. All this content is published at free will, it’s up to the viewer to figure out if it’s true or not.
Twitter and Facebook consistently make headlines as they continue to update their policies to fight against disinformation. For example, Twitter announced on September 10 that it will automatically fact-check all information regarding this year’s election. Facebook is constantly criticized for its inability to combat hate speech. On top of that, they’ll be banning the publication of new political ads between October 27-November 3rd as an attempt to reduce the spread of misinformation.
The second layer is the countless number of Fake News Websites, which can be more dangerous than social media posts. They are breeding grounds for the production of false content. Quite frankly, it’s not hard to create one, The University of California Santa Barbara Center for Information Technology explains. It’s as simple as buying a domain that sounds like a legitimate news outlet. Some of these websites include “www.newshound.com, www.patriotnews.co, or www.nbcnews9.net”. Upon first glance, assuming some of these websites are legitimate seems rational. Once you read the information, that’s when things start to get dicy. The articles published include subtle messaging that seems legitimate at first glance.
If it’s so easy to create, it should be easy to stop. At least that’s how it should work in theory. The issue is how fast misinformation can spread and how subtle it can be. Politifact keeps track of fake information all across the web, from viral Facebook posts to quotes from major politicians. Their report from fact-checking blogs revealed that 60% of the ones they analyzed have lied enough that their pants are on fire.
Here’s the catchall with the spread of misinformation: it’s all happening online. This means that there’s a way to figure out who’s been exposed to fake news and provide them with correct information. If you’re wondering how we do it, it’s through programmatic advertising!
In dedication to our mission of electing progressive candidates up and down the ballot, it only made sense for us to find a way to stop the spread of misinformation in its tracks. That’s why we developed Antidote: The Fake News Buster. It’s an award-winning program that uses the same digital ad targeting software we already have and know works.
Antidote allows us to follow visitors of fake news sites across the Internet to provide them with fact-checked information through targeted digital advertisements. We have developed a database of thousands of websites, such as Breitbart, who have a reputation for publishing fake news. Using that list, we can identify users who have been exposed to the misinformation and provide them with corrections to the information they originally received.
Misinformation is everywhere and definitely won’t disappear before November 3rd. As we work to hold large organizations like Facebook accountable, Antidote is a part of the puzzle in the fight to keep voters informed.
To learn more and ensure your voters are well informed, cast a message our way!