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Forget the Information Age. We are now decidedly living in the Disinformation Age. That’s not a partisan argument — it’s a fact, one of those weighty things that anchor us to reality. Admittedly, facts and truth can be harder to spot in the toxic stew of the internet where trolls, bots, and your Aunt Edna spread hoaxes, conspiracy theories, and otherwise bogus information.

Daniel Walters describes it as a type of pollution: “We’re sort of at the whims of everyday folks, disinformation agents, algorithms, and white supremacists, all jockeying to win the attention economy. The result is an air that is so clogged that we can barely breathe.”

Sadly, with 2020 on the horizon and tech advances making it easier to mash together “deepfakes,” things are bound to get weirder, but as tired and fed-up as you might be, don’t lose heart. There are things we can all do. Giving up can’t be one of them, though.

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A world where no one cares what’s right or wrong or just plain horseshit is not one we can willingly embrace.

How to Avoid Spreading Misinformation

  •  Wait before reposting. You won’t need to apologize for forwarding untrue information if you never share it to begin with. 
  •  Don’t share something just because it comes from a friend. Double check the source to make sure the reporting is from a respectable publication and that they’re not just summarizing the reaction on social media. Better yet, wait until a second publication independently confirms the reports. 
  •  Read the actual story first. Follow links to make sure the links actually back up the news stories. Biased news sources are infamous for making sensational claims in their headlines that the underlying material doesn’t support. 
  •  Be cautious about sharing bogus stories just to point how stupid or wrong they are. That’s an easy way to inadvertently spread a falsehood. 
  •  Mute #Resistance Twitter stars like Seth Abramson and Eric Garland and ignore far-right websites like Gateway Pundit, Breitbart, and (increasingly) The Federalist. Just because they tell you what you want to hear doesn’t mean they’re giving you the straight story.

A version of this story originally appeared in The Pacific Northwest Inlander, a free weekly newspaper published in Spokane, Washington.

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