Ways to help your audience stay informed this election

US Election 2020 Soundcheck Toolkit



Created by Anchor, Spotify, and First Draft

As a podcaster, your voice is very influential.

That’s why the people who try to spread disinformation want to use it. You have the audience and the voice they lack — so you’re an ideal host for them to piggyback onto.

Ideally they want creators like you to repeat their rumors. Even if you don’t believe the rumor, but still discuss it, that still works for them as you are acting as a megaphone for their misinformation.

Unfortunately the more a rumor is discussed and repeated — no matter how false it is — the more likely people are to believe it. So if you do need to address an issue or story, rather than simply repeating the rumor, focus instead on the proven facts. Always lead with the truth.

Find out more:
The psychology of misinformation: Why we’re vulnerable (article)

So why do people spread disinformation?

Three main reasons to keep in mind:

To make money

  • For example, tricking people into clicking on false sites to make money from advertising, promoting fake Covid-19 tests or asking for donations to fake GoFundMe accounts.

For political gain

  • Like creating a smear campaign before a domestic election, or a foreign government interfering in another country’s election.

For social or psychological reasons

  • Some people try to push false or misleading content just to see if they can get away with it.‍
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

Take a beat before sharing

Emotions can sway us. When we feel a strong emotional reaction to a piece of news or an article we’ve just read — fear, anger or joy — we’re more likely to share that content with others. Sometimes before we’ve really had time to process whether the content is factual and who the authors were.

You can play your part in slowing the spread of disinformation by taking a beat before you reshare content. Ask yourself if the content has deliberately provoked an emotional response to entice you to share it.

Find out more:
How emotional skepticism can help protect vulnerable communities (video)
Why do people share disinformation online? (video)

How to talk about conspiracy theories (or not)

Wild conspiracy theories can spread rapidly online. Sometimes they’re even shared by your friends and family. So how do we deal with it?‍

Photo by Ravi Sharma

It’s tempting to ignore these posts, or even mute the sharers. But sometimes it is necessary to set the record straight. If you do discuss conspiracy theories on your podcasts, it’s important to triple check all the facts in trusted sources first and to avoid alienating other people.‍

Calling the people who share the rumors crazy or wrong just makes them double down on their beliefs. The best approach is to use empathic language when we talk about the people who share and believe disinformation.

You could say that you’ve seen people posting the rumor and that you’re worried the people creating it are trying to divide us or scare us. It shouldn’t feel like you versus the sharer, but you and the sharer versus the original creator of the post.

There’s more than just fake news

Fake news is used to describe pretty much any content that someone thinks is deceptive. But there’s a big range of ways that content can be manipulated to trick people — and it isn’t always obviously ‘fake’. In fact, online information often lies on a spectrum between ‘false’ and ‘true’.

Here are 7 common techniques you’ll see again and again:

New content that is 100% false, designed to deceive and do harm.

When genuine sources are impersonated.

When genuine information or imagery is manipulated to deceive.

When genuine content is shared with false contextual information.

Misleading use of information to frame an issue or individual.‍

When headlines, visuals or captions don’t support the content.

No intent to cause harm but has the potential to fool.

Find out more:
Why we don’t say F*** News (video)
The seven most common types of information disorder

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

Be a disinformation detective

Here are a few ways to verify something you’ve seen. The more of these you’re able to dig into, the more sure you can be about the content.

Try and find the original
Who sent it to you? Who sent it to them? Where did they find it? How it traveled will tell you a lot about that piece of content.

Find the author or creator
Who recorded the audio? Took the original photo? Who shared that screenshot?

Confirm the date
When was it created?

Seek the location
Where was the content or account created?

Uncover the motivation
Why might this account have been made? What motives do the creators have for producing the content?

Look for visual clues
Can you do a bit of detective work to confirm where a piece of content is from?

Find out more:
Verification: A case study from Italy? (video walkthrough)
Tips and tricks for using your phone to verify information (video playlist)
Test your skills (online observation challenge)

You can really help your listeners understand what they’re going to encounter in the run up to November 3.

Talk to them about the types of misinformation they’re likely to see before they see it — so when they do see rumors they’re less likely to be fooled. Your listeners will thank you for helping them get to grips with the election, and you’ll ultimately empower them to express their voice at the ballot box this fall.

Find out more:
Why not knowing the result of the election on Nov 3 is democracy at work (video conversation between Claire Wardle and Vanita Gupta)

‍Thanks for playing your part to keep your listeners informed! For more media literacy tips and guides from our partners at First Draft, view the expanded toolkit here: spoti.fi/2020soundcheck