In February, Dominion Voting Systems filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News for knowingly reporting false information that its voting machines rigged the 2020 election in favor of President Joe Biden, The New York Times reported.
More than one-third of Americans believed Joe Biden won the election due to voter fraud following polarizing and misleading news consumption, according to a November 2021 poll by Monmouth University. However, media literacy — the practice of critically thinking about and analyzing all forms of media — can help students consume news with confidence and prevent the spread of “fake news.”
With misinformation from the previous presidential election remaining relevant in the news and the coverage of the 2024 election starting more than a year in advance, students must practice media literacy to prepare for the upcoming presidential election season. Students should also be mindful of the validity of the sources and the accuracy of information presented to establish an informed understanding of candidates.
News networks often lean to the left or right on the political spectrum and can produce biased news against certain politicians and policies, potentially manipulating a person’s perspective of the truth.
Referring to multiple news sources with moderate political reporting is an effective way to combat bias and learn accurate information about a candidate. Students should also visit the website AllSides, a resource with a media bias chart that outlines where outlets lean politically. Sources with alternative political views depict varying perspectives on candidates, so understanding biases that affect reporting can help viewers evaluate the intentions and validity of news stories.
“When it’s important information, you want to check multiple sources,” said Sherri Hope Culver, a media studies and production professor and director of the Center for Media and Information Literacy. “Spend some time actually looking behind the scenes of some news organizations that are maybe regional, maybe national or global and ask questions.”
A prominent method candidates use to promote themselves is through political ads on news outlets, but students shouldn’t immediately take these to be fully accurate.
Political ads can contain information about candidates and their opponents, although it’s not always factually accurate, NPR reported. The Federal Communication Commission does not fact-check political advertisements on federally broadcasted channels and many large social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, have limited restrictions.
Social media has been at the center of a contentious debate around the regulation of free speech, and it plays a crucial role in shaping public discourse and informing opinions. Although Twitter has policies for civic integrity, Elon Musk, the platform’s CEO, reduced the number of content moderators, CBS News reported.
False political ads skew a viewer’s perception of candidates, so they must confirm information through their own research on reputable websites to better prepare themselves as voters. Fact-checking websites like FactCheck.org and Snopes are accessible media-literate resources to analyze and evaluate information about candidates.
Other voters can be knowledgeable about the upcoming election by taking initiative to do their own research.
“I think that people should find out the information for themselves, don’t just listen to what your friends are doing,” said Tiana Jones, a sophomore biology student. “Think for yourself, look for yourself, and decide what you think is best for you.”
Students must practice media literacy to validate the news they consume and feel confident when voting in the 2024 election.