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    Fighting Fake News: How you can help stop the spread of Misinformation, Disinformation

    Fighting Fake News: How you can help stop the spread of Misinformation, Disinformation

    Photo By Sgt. Stephen Perez | U.S. Army Europe and Africa communication experts want to help you understand how you...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    U.S. Army Europe and Africa     

    We all do it.

    Get home from work, get cozy, get on social media. Scroll through your feed to see friends, family, work colleagues, old acquaintances you haven’t talked to in person for years, celebrities you follow for fun, community group postings, and…the news?

    All of a sudden, as you’re liking pictures of your friend’s children on the first day back to school and the Pinterest-inspired dinner your cousin made last night, a jarring headline jumps out at you and you see that it has been shared by several friends that you generally respect. So you stop scrolling and start reading. Often, consuming the information under the assumption that the people who shared the post would surely only share content that they’ve read thoroughly and vetted for credibility.

    Maybe it’s a politically-charged meme; maybe a friend posted an obscure quote from a well-renowned historical figure; or, maybe the platform itself suggests an article ‘just for you’ that claims to expose the wrongdoings of a company or government organization.

    In any case, the post grabs your attention and draws you in by appealing to your beliefs, fears, suspicions or worldviews. You feel compelled to take action, so what do you do? What can you do? You can share it. Simply click ‘share’ and voila! You’ve gifted your friends, family and followers with this information without knowing where it came from or what the motivation behind it is.

    Unfortunately, it’s not easy to determine what’s real vs. what’s “fake” on the internet and on social media these days.

    That’s why U.S. Army Europe and Africa communication experts want to help you understand how you can help stop the spreading of fake news.

    According to Richard Puckett, leader of the U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s Misinformation and Disinformation Tiger Team, ‘fake news’ can be broken down into two major categories: misinformation and disinformation.

    Puckett’s team assembles in response to potential instances of mis/disinformation and verifies the facts, confirms and/or invalidates the information and then takes actions in response to stop the spread.

    “The major difference is in the intent,” said Puckett. “Disinformation is deliberately created or fabricated to mislead and confuse a targeted population. Misinformation, on the other hand, falls into the category of unintentionally providing misleading information about something or a topic that people already believe to be true.”

    Disinformation can range from biased half-truths to conspiracy theories, to outright lies. The intent is to manipulate opinions creating divisions and blurring the truth among the targeted populations. States and individuals can easily spread disinformation at lighting speed and with serious impact using social media platforms to disseminate their information.

    Operating out of the U.S. Army Europe and Africa Public Affairs Office, Puckett’s team specializes in identifying malign information associated directly with the command throughout its 104-country area of responsibility.

    Although his team primarily focuses on the mis/disinformation that targets the command, Puckett emphasized that the spread of false information online affects all of us.

    “These mis/disinformation activities create confusion, angst, distrust and insecurity about what people believe,” said Puckett. “Particularly in the case of disinformation spread by malign actors linked to certain governments which aim to foster distrust and lack of confidence in democratic institutions, and scientific and medical experts by promoting unproven claims dispersed online in memes or fabricated news articles from untrustworthy sources.”

    Working for a military command stationed in Europe, Puckett and his team usually track media biased against the U.S. military. However, since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Puckett and his team have seen a lot of false information being spread online targeting the virus and the vaccine.

    “There is a great deal of anti-vaccine disinformation out there with wild claims. For example, certain vaccines contain human parts, or contain chips that can track our movements and program our thoughts, or worse – that hundreds of people are dying from them,” said Puckett.

    Because of this, military communication experts across the theater have been working to stay ahead of false narratives regarding the vaccines that are being perpetuated on social media.

    “In order to counter mis/disinformation and online rumors, we work hard to provide our audience with current, factual information about the COVID-19 vaccine so that our military community members can make informed decisions,” said Gino Mattarono, Regional Health Command Europe’s director of communications. “We highly recommend that when [getting] vaccine information on the internet or elsewhere, take a moment to ensure the information you’re looking at is coming from credible sources.”

    According to Puckett, individual efforts to ensure the information we consume is from credible sources is very important because malign actors use elaborate methods to coax people into taking their content at face value and sharing their posts, thereby broadening their reach, and spreading more false information.

    Ultimately, Puckett said that even the everyday social media user can help stop the spread of misinformation by simply vetting posts before choosing to share.

    Creators of disinformation purposely make content designed to trigger an emotional response. If you find yourself having an emotional reaction to a post, stop and think about why you “have to share it” and then investigate the content.

    Before you believe, retweet, or share, ask yourself:
    - Is it original? Is this the original article or content that was published?
    - Who? Is the information from a credible source?
    - When? When was the article and the account created?
    - Why? Why was this shared? Who stands to gain?

    “Know the difference between news and editorial opinion journalism,” said Puckett. “Take a few minutes to fact check things; and think before you share. If something causes an immediate emotional response, take a breath and think about it for a few moments before you click. This will make a difference.”

    Keep a healthy skepticism. Remember that rumors can easily circulate within communities and online, especially during a crisis, and we can all help stop the spread of disinformation by always choosing trusted sources of information such as:

    Weapons of Mass Distraction: Foreign State-Sponsored Disinformation in the Digital Age

    FBI Protected Voices Initiative (emphasizes the FBI’s role in protecting the voice of the American people)

    Bellingcat (an investigative journalism website specializing in fact-checking and open-source intel)



    Date Taken: 04.26.2021
    Date Posted: 04.26.2021 09:17
    Story ID: 394719
    Location: WIESBADEN, HE, DE 

    Web Views: 1,761
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