Misinfo Monday: Help Your Friends Cut the Crap

By Audrey Hingle | July 27, 2020

Misinfo Monday is a weekly series by Mozilla where we give you the tools, tips and tricks needed to cut the crap and find the truth. For more, check back weekly on our blog, or on our Instagram.

Misinfo Monday

We’ve all been there: an old friend (or family member or former colleague) posts something obviously false to social media. What do you do? Ignore it? Start an argument? Dispute it calmly? We can’t tell you what to do, but here's some advice to get you started.

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Size up your opponent.

It’s always OK not to engage. If you don’t think the person is receptive to conversation, or if reading or engaging with these posts is affecting your mental health, there’s nothing wrong with ignoring, blocking or deleting. If the content someone has shared on social media is racist, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Semitic, abusive or threatening, it’s a good idea to report it before you do. Most social networks including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok let you do this.

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Check yourself first.

Are you the one who’s full of crap? Before you kick off a difficult conversation, make sure you’re not the one in the wrong. Here are some tips from The Verge on how to do this.

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Be respectful.

There’s a person behind the misinformation, and attacking them won’t change their mind. Members of Reddit’s r/ChageMyView said that treating people with empathy and kindness was their number one tip.

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Find common ground.

Highlight your shared values before you point out that their information is bad, whether that’s love for your country or concern for your community. “Countering fake news may be especially effective when it comes from someone with a similar political identity” found Journalist Brooke Borel, author of the The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking.

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Make your discussion private.

It’s much more difficult to admit that you’re wrong in public. Consider moving your conversation off public forums and into a private chat. Especially if you want to preserve your relationship with this person.

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Share facts from respected sources.

And keep in mind that “respected” is subjective. If you’re talking to a conservative, facts from the Wall Street Journal will probably be better received than facts from the New York Times and vice versa. Know your audience.

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Know when to quit.

It’s very difficult to change someone’s mind. Mozilla fellow Renée DiResta notes that “We have a tendency to be receptive to information that supports our preconceived biases.” So don’t beat yourself up if you fail to change someone’s perspective. It’s notoriously difficult to do.


Want to read more about talking to friends who share misinformation? Here are some great resources from around the web