Ahead of the upcoming New Brunswick election, the province’s electoral agency is asking New Brunswickers for one thing — stop sharing fake news.
It’s why Elections NB has launched a new media literacy campaign that urges citizens to “check it before you share it.”
“It is no secret that social media plays a role in our everyday lives, from the way we connect with friends and family to the way we share information and ideas,” said Kimberly Poffenroth, New Brunswick’s chief electoral officer.
“The exponential growth in the use of social media to influence elections has created a digital battleground that offers few, if any, rules to ensure the accuracy of the information being pushed out.”
Elections NB says that fake news isn’t something to be trusted and that it is news that has been made up.
“People who create it may have a political agenda and use their media platform to influence others,” reads the new website launched by Elections NB.
“Other people who create it are simply looking for clicks or ad revenue.”
The agency has rolled out a series of videos to accompany the campaign. They use purposefully ridiculous social media posts — such as the sighting of the Loch Ness monster in the Miramichi River — to illustrate that not everything online is factual, even when somebody you know might share it.
“What makes it even more damaging is that ‘fake news’ can look very real or plausible – and if it aligns with people’s personal beliefs or biases, people may then share the information without taking the time to ask themselves, ‘Is this information real?'” Elections NB says.
Here are some of the tips the agency is recommending New Brunswickers use to identify real news and the fakes:
- Consider the source: Is the news from a legitimate media organization that you’ve heard of?
- Is it a joke? Satirical websites will usually identify themselves as such but not always
- Read beyond the headline: Headlines are supposed to be used to attract attention and won’t tell the whole story. Some fake news stories can be easily identified with a quick read through the article.
- Check the byline: Is the author a real person or does their name sound fake?
- Check the support: Look up the story’s sources. Do they support the content of the article?
- Check the date: Some fake news stories piggybacking off of stories that are years old, twisting them to support their new agenda.
- Check your biases: Confirmation bias leads to people believing information that supports their own views and disregarding information that doesn’t. Elections NB says they encourage people to put aside their biases before sharing.
Elections NB says that although combating fake news is not part of their mandate, they’re hoping to help play a role in educating voters to be aware of attempts to influence them.
The agency is also stressing that citizens should consider the agency as a trusted source of facts related to the upcoming election — such as voting locations, dates and times.