Utahn says ‘use your brain’ in 2020 presidential election


SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) — Social media experts are warning people of the dangers of spreading misinformation online.

Outlets like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are at a crossroads of what to do to diminish this.

Over the years, there has been growing concern about politics on social media. This election that concern has become misinformation; questions like who’s spreading it and what is factual.

Utahns told ABC4 News when it comes to social media, you have to pick your battles. A University of Utah digital media professor said it starts with the user.

Social Media has been around for five presidential elections and every presidential election it seems the platforms are faced with more and more problems. 

“There is a proliferation of misinformation,” said University of Utah Associate Professor, Avery Holton.

Holton works in the communication department and specializes in digital media. He said misinformation could sway the way people vote in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

“That could be really scary especially when we are faced with making a very important decision like with what we are faced with next week,” said Holton.

A September Axios survey of 1,000 registered voters found, to help diminish the spread of social media, it should be shut down. Fifty-two percent of respondents agreed with that. Seventy-nine percent said social media companies should “do more to protect democracy,” and 82 percent support placing warning labels on accounts spreading false information about voting.

Most Utahns agreed with the data, but some said it’s pertinent people do their own independent research.

 “Shutting it down wouldn’t be bad, but it is not necessary,” said Peggy Miller. “You just have to use your own brain.”

Hamilton has voted in several presidential elections and typically uses Facebook and Twitter.

“I think that is extreme,” said Sarah Brown. “I think that is almost impossible for that to happen. I think there should be regulations and standards that are kept.”

Brown has teenage kids and said she teaches them the importance of verifying facts and data. She is 46 years old, so that makes her part of Generation X. She told ABC 4 News she believes her generation is somewhat skeptical of social media.

Some standards are in place for Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Twitter said no political ads have been allowed since Nov. 22nd, 2019. Facebook said it’s no longer accepting any new ads leading up to the election. 

“People over the age of 65 are more susceptible to misinformation,” said Holton.  

“I think that we have to pray and make our decision of what and who we should vote on and not listen to everybody else’s opinion,” said Miller.

Miller said she often does her own independent research like Brown.

“The only way to find the truth is to educate yourself on both sides so you can kind of see the middle,” said Brown.

Holton said social media has made a big shift during this election. He said what’s most important for voters on social media is to be aware and make sure to understand the context of what’s being shared.

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