Editorial: Stay vigilant against disinformation attempts

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We’ve entered election season; and with that, we have entered the season of campaigns, political ads and debates. But, most importantly, we have entered the season of disinformation, leaving us susceptible to the political concoctions of self-serving politicians, foreign entities and disinformation machines, all in hopes that on election day, we’ll cast our vote in their favor. In the days, weeks, and months leading up to the primary and general election, it’s important to stay vigilant in determining the difference between reliable versus biased and/or entirely fake news sources. 

Maybe you enjoy waking up and turning on MSNBC or Fox News to get your daily dose of the political happenings of today. But what you may not realize is that both of these stations are biased toward one side, feeding into your personal political bias. If you fail, as many Americans do, to get your information from a variety of news sources, you will undoubtedly be victim to receiving biased and (probably) dishonest information. 

In this election season, there have already been several widespread disinformation attempts, including a viral Facebook post attempting to discredit Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders’ tax bracket by stating he would look to tax earnings over $29,000 by 52 percent. Sanders’ actual tax bracket calls for a tax plan that would increase tax percentages for the incredibly wealthy.  

Social media’s ever-increasing role in political campaigns, while helpful in spreading political awareness and arguably increasing voter turnout, also aids in the spreading of fake news. As many young people get their news from social media outlets, either Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook, it has become easier than ever to spread false information. 

As we are growing into adults who will be embarking into the real world, where we will be expected to think and develop strong opinions, we will need to ensure that we are not letting ourselves be lied to, and that comes with reading.

It’s no secret that mainstream news sources have at least a little bias–it’s what sells because it allows people to participate in selective exposure, which means that they are subconsciously reading news sources that lean toward their underlying political ideologies. As soon-to-be voters, this is the main trap we need to become aware of. That being said, read multiple publications, read multiple articles about the same topic, recognize which sources you read and what they are saying to you.

We at Highlights believe in responsible journalism. We believe that reporters should focus on the facts, doing their best job to leave their personal biases out of the story. That being said, America’s ever-increasingly partisan state of affairs lends itself to a different form of journalism–a faulty one. As consumers of media and as coming-of-age members of the political arena, it is absolutely crucial that we work to diversify the sources of information we use to make decisions, whether they be personal or national. 

Click on this link to play a video game that will test your knowledge and ability to pick the best news source. To start playing, use the arrow keys to move the “hero” character to the “gatekeeper” standing inside the brown circle.

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