Sorting fact from fiction

Fact from fiction

Social media can help you find out what candidates and parties stand for, but you need to know how to sort fact from fiction because you can't trust everything you see on your feed.
Video transcript

Elections can generate lots of differing views and opinions, and your social media feeds might be filled with posts and ads about the election.

Social media is a popular way to talk about the election and see different sides of a debate.

It can help you find out what candidates and parties stand for, but you need to know how to sort fact from fiction because you can't trust everything you see on your feed.

Just remember that on social media, anyone can share their views, and that includes people or groups trying to spread false information or who just get it wrong.

Here are some steps you can take to make sure the information that is informing your vote is correct.

First, always look for a source on any news you see. Is it from a source you know and trust? If it isn't, do some online digging and check out the person or organisation behind the post.

After you've done that, have a look at the number of real followers the account has. Does it have a lot of bots following it? That might indicate that the source can't be trusted.

Another thing to ask could be, is this an opinion piece? Is it balanced? You should also ask yourself why it's been posted and what the author might gain by putting forward only one side of the story.

Does a political ad make you excited or furious? Inflammatory or sensational posts get more engagement on social media so advertisers are more likely to use extreme language to reach more people.

They might also use micro-targeting to show you ads based on your location, age or political interests.

If it's a political ad, has it been authorised? This means that the person or group behind the ad has clearly stated their contact details, rather than hiding behind an anonymous account.

If after all of this you're still unsure about the information, check out our website – a source of election information you can absolutely trust.

Don't contribute to the spread of nasty fiction or incompetent research. And remember, you can report anything you think is misinformation to all the social media platforms now.

Sort fact from fiction this election and know that you'll be casting an informed vote.

Jump to the misinformation register

False or inaccurate information can easily spread online, sometimes unintentionally. It's important to think carefully about all electoral information you see this election.

Ask yourself these questions to help sort fact from fiction:

  • Is it from a reliable source?
  • Is it current?
  • Is it authorised?
  • Is it coming from a real person and not a 'bot'?

Misinformation is when information is spread that is believed to be true by those who are sharing it, but which is actually incorrect.

Disinformation is when information is designed to deliberately mislead and influence public opinion or obscure the truth for malicious or deceptive purposes.

You might come across both types during the election period.

This information is available in an Easy English guide (PDF) at the bottom of this page. 

Check the source

Is the information published by a person or organisation with a reputation for accurate reporting? Or is it difficult to find what the source is at all? Information that seeks to mislead people is often from a website or news source that you've never heard of. If you're unsure, see if you can find a similar story from a source you trust.

Check the date

Make sure any information you are consuming about an election is current. Information that is more than 6 months old might not have all the latest facts.

Check for authorisation

Has the person who wants to share this information put their name to it? Messages that seek to influence how people vote must include an authorisation statement. If there is no authorisation statement, the information might not be reliable.

An example of authorisation on an Instagram post. The posted image is a black square with text that says

Check who is spreading it

Sometimes information isn't posted by humans and instead is published by bots. A bot is a piece of software that is programmed to automatically complete certain tasks. Social media bots can be programmed to mimic human users by posting updates, replying to other users, and sharing links and news stories.

Sometimes bot accounts use social media to deliberately spread incorrect information. Check the profile of the account posting the information to see if it is a legitimate account, or one that looks like it has been set up to push a particular message.

Things such as the account's posting history, number of followers or location may help you figure out whether a real person is posting from the account.

A screenshot of bots on twitter. There are 4 different profiles all tweeting the same thing about a new app. The accounts all have long strings of numbers at the end, like @Charles79929420.

Check who is paying for it

If you see sponsored advertising related to an election on social media, you can check to see who has paid for it.

Ads on social media will be marked 'sponsored' or 'paid for by [company name]'. You can click this information or the ellipsis on the post (...) to find out who has paid for it.

Facebook example of how to see who paid for an ad. The ad reads

Advertisers online can target people based on their location, age, gender, websites they have visited or other characteristics. Ask yourself why this message or ad may have been sent to you.

Check how it makes you feel

If the information makes you feel angry or excited, take time to check the facts of the story. It might be an opinion piece that is designed to make people share it around. If you're not sure if the information is true – then don't share it.

Know who to trust

We are the impartial 'umpire' that runs State and local council elections in Victoria and makes sure that all election participants play by the rules. We are independent of government, and our aim is to make sure that all eligible Victorians are equal at the ballot box. We'll be sharing some of the myths we come across in the lead up to the 2022 State election, so check this page frequently. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

While we will address myths and false information about election processes, it's important to understand that we don't regulate political advertising. Victorian electoral law does not require electoral campaign material to be truthful, so we encourage you to use the tips on this page to sort fact from fiction and do your own research.

Misinformation register

This register lists the electoral misinformation we have discovered, along with the corresponding facts. 

How we work with online platforms

In September 2022 we signed an agreement with 5 online platforms to set out how we will work together to reduce the risk of harm that may arise from the spread disinformation and misinformation. This agreement is known as a 'statement of intent', and you can download it below.