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5 tips for navigating the post-Election Day vote count

Election worker Kristen Mun from Portland empties ballots from a ballot box at the Multnomah County Elections Division, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 3030 in Portland, Ore. Oregon is the first state in the nation to institute voting by mail and automatic voter registration. (AP Photo/Paula Bronstein)
Election worker Kristen Mun from Portland empties ballots from a ballot box at the Multnomah County Elections Division, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 3030 in Portland, Ore. Oregon is the first state in the nation to institute voting by mail and automatic voter registration. (AP Photo/Paula Bronstein) (2020 The Associated Press)

Ballots have been cast and voting is over - but with key states with votes still to count, the coming days and weeks could see viral misinformation and competing claims play out on TV and social media. Here are five tips for navigating what could be a deeply confusing and anxious period:

  1. Even after states declare, keep in mind that the race isn’t over. Recounts in certain states are possible (or may even be required) and it’s safe to expect legal challenges that could take weeks to resolve. These will be new processes for many voters, and accurate information on what’s happening might be hard to find - it’s in these information gaps that misinformation can thrive.
  2. Beware information that causes strong emotional reactions. It’s been a long, exhausting, and polarizing election campaign, so emotional reactions to new information are to be expected. But be careful - content that makes you feel strong emotions of fear, anxiety or elation may not be true.
  3. Candidates may use their media presence to amplify false claims. We’ve already seen one candidate take to the airwaves to make false claims about their victory, and it is likely to happen again in the coming days. The bombardment of such claims, which may be reported and repeated by media, can create a false sense of validity. Be aware of candidate claims you’re hearing over and over again, and remember you can always reach for the mute button.
  4. We may yet learn more information about election disinformation efforts. In 2016 we learned a lot more about external and internal efforts to manipulate the election through disinformation, the same may happen in 2020. It’s important to state that from what we saw on election day, the voting process seemed normal and smooth across the country, with only a handful of incidents nationwide that will be investigated by authorities.
  5. Remember to pause before you share. The best way to stop the spread of misinformation is to make sure that you aren’t responsible for sharing unverified claims. Pause a few moments before you share information that you aren’t sure about - or that makes you have a strong emotional reaction - and carry out some basic checks for yourself: Who is the source? how do they know what they are claiming? What is their source of information?

You can share any election-related posts you’re seeing with the Trust Index fact-checking team and we’ll get to work on it. See something you’d like us to review? Use the Trust Index form to send it to trained fact-checkers for review and possible debunking on a newscast or online. Questions about any of this? Reach us at: trustindex@grahammedia.com

Fathm co-founders Fergus Bell and Tom Trewinnard are global experts in fighting misinformation, particularly around elections. They’ve built fact-checking projects in the U.S., U.K., India, Sweden and Mexico, and have trained hundreds of journalists worldwide. Earlier this year, Fathm worked with GMG newsroom to build verification systems that guided coverage through the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 election season. They also helped created Trust Index, our fact-checking team.

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The Trust Index team fact checks questionable information circulating on social media and in our communities. Use the form below to contact the team.