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Imposters could be infiltrating your social media feeds ahead of election

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INDIANAPOLIS — As the election draws closer, your social media feeds could include bots trying to spread disinformation and partisan messages.

There are more tools than ever available to test your ability to spot the bot and CBS4 used them to learn more about the clues that could tip you off to a fake.

One big clue can be whether an account posts any personal information. According to Clemson University’s tool ‘Spot the Troll,’ a real user will typically post photos and content specific to where they live, as opposed to a bot that only posts national content and commentary.

Clemson’s tool also points out profiles that use the photos of young women. In two examples, the women’s profiles say they are students, but do not say where they go to school.

Profiles named after vague causes, as opposed to names, can also be red flags. For instance, two Instagram profiles named ‘nevada_blue_line’ and ‘power_to_women’ turned out to be fakes.

CBS4’s Jill Glavan sat down with Betsi Grabe, a professor and researcher at Indiana University’s Observatory for Social Media, who said learning the language can also be key. For instance, Grabe talked about the difference between misinformation and disinformation.

“[Misinformation is] basically an honest mistake. … There’s no intent behind it,” Grabe said. “[With disinformation] someone designs a message to mislead the public.”

Grabe said disinformation in particular has become a major problem online, where it can be hard to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not.

“It’s a form of a campaign, it’s a form of propaganda, it’s a form of persuasion,” Grabe said.

When in doubt, Grabe’s team at IU OSoMe have developed tools that allow you to input a Twitter account and see its ‘Botometer’ score, or how bot-like an account behaves.

Bill Moreau is one Hoosier taking these ideas to the ballot box.

“You have to figure out, what information is out there that I can trust?” Moreau said.

Moreau and his wife recently developed One More Voice, a non-partisan website for people across Indiana to research candidates before they vote.

“Some of our earliest funders were attracted by the idea that we would serve as an oasis of unbiased information in the swirling seas of all this highly partisan information,” Moreau said.

Grabe hopes that more people will take the time to become media literate, learning to sort through all the information online and verify before you pass it on.

“When you share it, you become part of the domino effect that diffuses false information into society,” Grabe said.

Here are some resources to help you test your own media literacy and look into an account’s reliability:

Clemson University’s Spot the Troll game

Indiana University’s Fakey game

Indiana University’s Botometer

Indiana University’s additional tools

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