5 ways you can help fight misinformation on Election Day

Misinformation and disinformation: What is, how to spot it, what to do

As Election Day finally arrives it is going to be easy to feel overwhelmed by the volume of information being aimed at every single voter in the country. When it comes to digital sources and social media we know that having a moment to pause, step back, and make your own decision about what to believe -- based on the facts -- is important. As polls open here are five things to watch for on Election Day 2020:

  1. Many, many reports, photos, and videos of long lines. When polls open people turn up to vote and they tend to fit patterns; first thing, lunchtime, after dinner, etc. Early in the day, this isn’t anything to worry about - it could be high turnout or it could be indicative of an early problem at the voting place. It is only later on in the day when there are concerns people might not be able to cast their vote that long lines become something to think more about.
  2. Suspicious instructions for how to actually vote. It’s now very common to see conflicting instructions about how, where, and when to vote. If you see something about a new way to vote for the first time on election day itself and it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
  3. Fake claims of voter fraud. After winning the 2016 election, President-elect Donald Trump made a series of false claims about widespread voter fraud as the reason for his losing the popular vote. At the time, Electionland and other sources debunked the claims based on their election day reporting, but it’s possible and likely that similar claims may arise in 2020, particularly given the heated rhetoric about mail-in ballots, which have seen increased use nationwide due to the coronavirus pandemic. Before sharing any claims of voter fraud, which is historically statistically negligible in the US, check news sources that have covered the voting process.
  4. Fake exit polls or results. You could see convincing bar charts showing vote share or photos of projected winners branded with logos that you recognize. Some will be real, some won’t. To be sure, seek out the original source and see if you can find it on their official website or social channels.
  5. Expect the unexpected. Presidential elections come around every four years. We’ll see things we can’t necessarily anticipate, especially in an election taking place during a pandemic. If you see something that you aren’t sure about then that’s ok. Take a moment, check the source, and think before you share it.

You can also share what you are seeing with the Trust Index team and we’ll get to work on it. See something you’d like us to review? Use the Trust Index form to send it to trained fact-checkers for review and possible debunking on a newscast or online. Questions about any of this? Reach us at: trustindex@grahammedia.com

Fathm co-founders Fergus Bell and Tom Trewinnard are global experts in fighting misinformation, particularly around elections. They’ve built fact-checking projects in the U.S., U.K., India, Sweden and Mexico, and have trained hundreds of journalists worldwide. Earlier this year, Fathm worked with GMG newsroom to build verification systems that guided coverage through the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 election season. They also helped created Trust Index, our fact-checking team.

What would you like fact-checked?

The Trust Index team fact checks questionable information circulating on social media and in our communities. Use the form below to contact the team.