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Published July 3rd, 2024
Spotting mis/disinformation in media during the upcoming elections

With so many sources of nefarious news to filter through and artificial intelligence capabilities on the rise, how can the average voter learn to spot fake news when it comes to election information?
The Moraga Library offered a "Mis/Disinformation: Election Edition" presentation on June 25 that was sponsored by The League of Women Voters Diablo Valley (LWV), with the intention of teaching voters "how to spot fake news, fact-check sources, and navigate the complexities of today's media landscape."
In order to start the evening on a trusty-worth note, the slide presentation began with a statement identifying LWV as, "a non-partisan organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. The League never endorses or opposes candidates or political parties. We influence public policy through education and advocacy."
LWV representatives Martha Van Orshoven and Paul Derksen's presentation reminded attendees that "it's all about where you get your news from and if you believe what you hear." They added that often information is presented out of context in order to weave together material that could be conceived as true. AI capabilities have become so sophisticated that it's nearly impossible to tell if images have been faked.
Van Orshoven explained that "Misinformation" is the sharing of false information without the intent to harm. "Disinformation" involves creating and sharing false information with the intent to harm or mislead. "Malinformation" is based on fact but used out of context with the intent to harm or mislead. She also put forth that AI uses applications that perform complex tasks that once required human input, such as Machine Learning -- (Alexa/SIRI) or Deep Learning -- more information received much faster and foundationally relies on data from humans.
Depending on the age group, voters' news sources come in various types of media form: 18-29 year olds primarily rely on news websites/apps, pod casts, and search engines; 30-49 year olds overall prefer search engines and television, with a smattering of news websites/apps and pod casts; 50-64 year olds look to search engines and television; and the 65+ age group relies the heaviest on television with a bit of search engines and newspapers. All age groups have been known to get their news from print or radio, but the statistics were not overwhelming. Also, knowing where various news sources lean is a good indicator of what type of information bias the voter can expect. The categories typically fall under: left, lean left, center, lean right, and right.
Van Orshoven discussed the five standards of credible journalism which includes using multiple sources, verifying sources, avoiding obvious bias, providing context, and balanced reporting.
Derksen brought up various ways to spot "Mis/Disinformation" through researching the source and cross-checking the information, checking the date and domain, reading past the headline and examining an article's content, and being wary of emotionally charged content. He also stated that if a story offers links, follow them. If there are no links, no quotations, or no references, it could be a red flag warning to fake news. He added, if an image looks suspicious use a reverse search engine such as TinEye (tineye.com) or Google Images (lens.google.com) for verification.
There are several sources for trustworthy election information. The Secretary of State website is: sos.ca.gov. Another is the website for the County Elections Office: contracostavote.gov. LWV provides a website that gives all voting information: www.vote411.org. Contra Costa County offers a website (secure-election.org) that explains the 48-step verification process it uses to secure elections by securing technology, facilities, processes and people.

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