Propaganda, misinformation, deep and cheapfakes, and other attempts at manipulation are prevalent on social media. This page contains some information and strategies that you can use to avoid spreading them yourself.
False information can often spread through the following path:
While you cannot stop this loop, you can avoid becoming part of it. Step 2, where people repost or retweet information, is where the initial spread comes from. Always take a moment to fact check anything sensational before you repost, to avoid becoming part of the "people talking about the issue" in step 3.
The most important step to take is to interrupt your own reflex of sharing posts that outrage you or resonate with your beliefs. Scammers capitalize on that instinct by tailoring their stories to fit the beliefs of their targets so they will slip under their defenses.
There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.
CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.
CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information
CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions
CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news
No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.) Some articles fall under more than one category. Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not. It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.
Borrowed with permission from Indiana University East.