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Experts weigh-in on election interference, give tips on how to spot disinformation online

Disinformation experts say this is about the time where more and more false or misleading claims will surface online to try to influence the election.

PHOENIX —

Editor's Note: The above video features coverage about voter integrity.

With Election Day inching closer, voters can expect a whole lot of disinformation coming their way online 

Experts say this is about the time where more and more false or misleading claims, and even threats, will surface in our timelines, feeds and email inboxes in an attempt to influence voters.  

The FBI announced this week accusations against Russia and Iran for sending threatening emails to voters in Florida and other attempts to influence the U.S. election. 

RELATED: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters, US intelligence says

FBI officials said both Iran and Russia got a hold of American voter registration information. 

Iran and Russia have denied the accusations.  

And while FBI officials touted the security of the U.S. voting system, voters are still vulnerable to being manipulated by information online that could influence the way they vote.  

“The thoughts and perceptions that people have shaped who they vote for and what they vote for,” Wayne Unger, disinformation researcher from Arizona State Universitysaid.  

Unger and his team have studied disinformation connected to foreign interference in elections. Unger said people should be on high alert for false and misleading information online.  

“Be very cognizant of the information that is going to come out before Election Day...The reason why it is very important to be cognizant is if we look at the playbooks of disinformers, specifically the Russia playbook from 2016, we see an information operation explode right before the election,” Unger said.  

RELATED: Click Here Comrade: How to Spot a Bot

People should be skeptical about what they see online, especially right now, explained Julie Smith, media literacy instructor at Webster University in St. Louis 

“Now we have to recognize that information can be weaponized. I would encourage people to be skeptical of all information they receive either through email or social media platforms about the election,” Smith said.  

There are many reasons why disinformation is purposefully put out and certainly, political and monetary reasons rank very high on that list. 

Smith said there are three questions to ask yourself before you click or share a message online: Who is the actual sender of this message? What’s the motive or intent? Who is making money from this message? 

“In many cases, a lot of these pieces of disinformation have a commercial motivation. If we click on that website or if we stay on that link longer, they make more money from advertisements that they sell,” Smith said.  

RELATED: Click Here Comrade: We show you how to spot a misleading photo online

Here’s some more advice from our experts 

  • Look for a strong emotional response. That might be exactly what the account that posted it wants.   

  • Double-check information. If there is just one account sharing that information there is a good chance it is inaccurate in some way or completing made up.   

  • Check the source. Try to share information from sources that are reputable. It is also a good sign if more than one source is reporting similar information.  

  • Avoid social media if you can. Social media makes it easy to spread false and misleading information.  

  • Don’t take the (click)bait. Most reputable sources will NOT ask you to retweet and share content in the headline. If a headline has all caps and a lot of exclamation marks, it is probably clickbait.  

More resources 

For checking email addresses:

https://email-checker.net/

https://tools.verifyemailaddress.io/

https://hunter.io/email-verifier

For analyzing photos:

Google Reverse Image Search

Tin Eye

Yandex Reverse Image Search

 For analyzing videos:

YouTube Data Viewer

InVID Chrome Plug-In

Watch Frame by Frame

For analyzing social media platforms:

Botometer

TrendsMap

FollerMe

Social Blade

SearchUsers

For checking specific stories:

Snopes

Emergent

Hoax Slayer

Fact Check

Flack Check

Open Secrets

Viral Spiral

For analyzing ads:

Facebook’s Ad Library

Twitter’s Ad Transparency Site

General Resources:

Verification Handbook

First Draft News

News Literacy Project

Full Fact Toolkit