How to spot fake election posts on social media

Is Joe Biden wearing a wire?

Is President Trump hiding an oxygen tank under his jacket?

These are two examples of fake posts shared across social media shortly after the first presidential debate.

As we gear up for the November’s election, you have already been bombarded with an avalanche of voter information and an onslaught of disinformation.

“You know, me and my team, we’ve been talking about this as the Olympics of disinformation.” said Joan Donovan, director of the Technology and Social Change Project at the Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center.

Her team of Harvard researchers study media manipulation across all platforms and look at how disinformation can be used to disrupt an election cycle.

“If you are seeking information about how to vote and you’re running into misinformation or claims that it doesn’t matter because the election is rigged, then you are probably less likely to vote.” said Donovan, “One of the strategies of voter suppression that is really important for us to understand is the creation of voter apathy, trying to get people not to vote at all.”

And political posts aren’t always targeting candidates.

Shortly after the first presidential debate, a suspicious photo of Fox News host Chris Wallace made the rounds on social media of him on a boat with Jeffrey Epstein.

According to Snopes, it’s an old photo of him with actor George Clooney.

Links to Epstein’s private island seem to be a popular source of disinformation on social media.

A Facebook post about actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on the island was made shortly after he threw his support towards candidate Joe Biden.

According to PolitiFact, it was a doctored photo taken from his tv show “Ballers”.

Donovan says the social media site is one of the worst culprits of spreading disinformation.

“There’s serious issues with the ways in which private groups become the landing pages for a lot of these rumors and disinformation campaigns” said Donovan.

Donovan says you have to be your own internet sleuth. If an image triggers an emotional response, you should try and search for other sources of news to verify it.

Websites like Snopes and PolitiFact are working non-stop to keep up with the constant stream of false or misleading information.

But Donovan says some of these posts are so sophisticated that even media experts can get fooled momentarily.

“If you do share something that you later find out as manipulated, also share the debunk or the fact check on it so that you can become someone who is trustable within your information,” said Donovan.

Donovan said one of the best ways to avoid election disinformation is watching local news.

That’s because it’s rare that deceptive media makes it into the news cycle.

She says it critical that you pay attention to your local politics, your local races and know how to vote. It’s so important to have a plan.