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What to do after The March? Let’s trample on ‘fake news.’

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What to do after The March? Let’s trample on ‘fake news.’

While I'm just a tiny bit sad that it took a man to mention this, I was happy to see one particular recommendation in Huffington Post writer Todd Lombardo's advice to people who participated in the Women's March on Washington.

His "what to do now" suggestions for the hundreds of thousands of mostly female marchers include what to read, how to contact your congressperson, where to send donations.

And most importantly: Become a fact-checker of your Facebook and Twitter feeds.

"Respond to falsehoods with truth" on social media, he says. "Fact-checking must be relentless, and the onus is on all of us."

Truthfully, though, the onus is mostly on women — because we have met the enemy and I'm pretty sure it's us.

Women are the most prolific users of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest, according to the latest Pew Research statistics. (Do not be fooled by Pinterest and its innocent posts about melted crayon art and adult treehouses. Yes, there are Things That Need to be Fact-Checked on Pinterest, too.)

On Facebook, women also post more often than men, according to a Brandwatch study. Women are in touch with their friends on social media more often than men. They even use their mobile devices more often to post to social media on the go.

So I'd like to propose the notion that, as prolific users of social media platforms, women have a higher responsibility to fight the misinformation that pollutes those platforms.

I haven't seen demographic studies about which gender is most guilty of sharing misinformation, but I've done plenty of observation in my own Facebook feed over the past year. And almost every piece of misinformation, fake news, and partisan bullshit has been shared by my women friends and followers.

I've asked some of my friends to do a quick gut-check of the gender of misinformation purveyors in their own social media feeds. And they agree: Women outnumber men in the sharing of bad information.

Check your feeds and see what you find. Let me know, and we'll do our own little informal study.

So, how do you go about fact-checking your friends on Facebook? Very carefully (assuming you actually want to keep them as friends). Channel your favorite teacher and offer corrective information with empathy. I have more advice in this article for Real Simple magazine.

And really, it can be simple. The ONE IMPORTANT THING you need to do when checking the veracity of a social media post is to check the source of the information. Where did your friend's/follower's post originate? Go to the URL and do a little legwork to determine its reliability as a source:

Click on the "About" page of the site. (If there is no "About" page, well, I think you have your answer.) Is the site partisan in any way? Does it use the words "conservative values" or "progressive" or list its mission statement as "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children"? These are all clues that this is not a source of reliable information.

Look at spelling, grammar, design. Is there erroneous punctuation and random capitalization of words that should be lower case? Does the writing contain odd syntax? Does it seem like it was written by someone for whom English is a distant second language? Does it read like the assembly instruction sheet for that bargain-store table you tried to put together? Is there a lot of white lettering on black background? Does the web design look like a map of hell?

These questions may seem odd, but believe me, if you answer "yes" to any of them it's likely you're in a bad place.

Check the date. Recognize that some content does indeed have an expiration date. People sometimes circulate stories and photos that are many years old and have no relevance to the current issue at hand.

Want to learn a bit more about reliable sources? Tom Rosenstiel, my boss and executive director of the American Press Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan media think tank, has written in more detail about how to identify trustworthy media. First Draft News has resources for the more advanced fact-checker.

One more thought: While there’s an infinite amount of work we all can do in the battle against misinformation, it's probably wise to leave the heavy lifting to highly trained professionals. If you are a woman of means (or want to pretend for a moment that you are), consider making a donation to a non-profit newsroom or a journalism organization devoted to accountability and truth-seeking.

On the national level, there's ProPublica, Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, FactCheck.org, PolitiFact's Truth Squad, and many more. If you prefer to keep your donations local, check around town. If you're lucky, you'll find an organization like Pittsburgh's PublicSource, or MinnPost, or The Texas Tribune. And of course, consider actually subscribing to professionally produced news.

Maybe it's asking a lot for women to potentially trade some of the joy of perusing their social feeds for the intense work of identifying bad information and reporting it to the social media authorities.

But for women who drove all night and traveled hundreds of miles and bundled up against the weather to walk through the nation's capital and other cities until their feet bled, well, maybe it really isn't too much to ask. After all, women are heroic multitaskers.

What would happen if every woman moved "Prevent the trampling of facts and truth" to the top of their what-to-do-after-the-march lists? If every marcher obliterated one piece of bad information every day in their social media feeds?

You can't fact-check the future, but when the next Women's March rolls around, I look forward to fact-checking our fact-checking efforts.


This blog first appeared on Medium. It is republished with permission.

Author

WAN-IFRA External Contributor

Date

2017-02-06 12:04

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