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Voters must think critically on social media this election to avoid 'fake news': expert

Last Updated Sep 18, 2019 at 2:24 pm PDT

FILE - Facebook, Messenger and Instagram apps are are displayed on an iPhone in New York. March 13, 2019. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Jenny Kane, File

A UBC professor says the best way to stop misinformation on social media is not to react with emotion

He says there is an enormous amount of illiteracy and confusion in the public mind about what is true on social media

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As the federal election campaign continues, one expert says Canadians will continue to see attempts to sway votes, and need to think critically to recognize misinformation on social media.

Political scientist Max Cameron with the University of British Columbia says he’s concerned about the impact of so-called “fake news” on democracy, and it will be an issue during the 2019 election campaign.

RELATED: Person who posted fake Mercer endorsement ‘not involved on the local campaign,’ Conservatives say

“There is an enormous amount of illiteracy and confusion in the public mind around what people consume on social media,” he says.

A meme misquoting comedian Rick Mercer that was spotted on a Facebook page for a Conservative candidate this week is just one example of how easy it is to spread false information and quotes, Cameron says.

“If it was attempting to be funny, it wasn’t done very well because I think it looked deceptive. A lot of voters are easily deceived.”

RELATED: ‘Not true. All fake’: Rick Mercer responds after false quote posted on Conservative Facebook page

He says people need to be careful about what they share online.

“The most obvious takeaway would be – don’t engage in anything that looks deceptive. We are being manipulated by algorithms even when we’re unaware of it. We’re manipulated because we have a predisposition to be manipulated.”

Cameron’s advice is not to react or comment with emotion, and to think twice before sharing what could be entirely false.