Social media users warned to fact check this election season

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KMOX) - Social media posts are heating up as we get closer to the November election.  One expert tells KMOX, what you see in your feed may not be the reality.

"Anybody online can take an old photo and repackage it, or reframe it, or repurpose it for whatever is happening today," warns Julie Smith, Instructor in the School of Communications at Webster University in St. Louis and author of the book Master the Media: How Teaching Media Literacy Can Save our Plugged-In World.  

Smith points out there are some simple ways to verify whether an image is accurate.  She says if you have Google Chrome, for example, you can right-click on the photo and do a reverse image search, "and what that will do is bring up every single website that is using that exact same image and that's how you can find out if that image has been recycled from a different event or a different time period."

Smith says it's our responsibility as citizens to be critical media consumers, "that doesn't mean we hate the media, it means we are asking questions about it constantly." 

She adds posts can be deceiving because of the way they're packaged. 

"It's difficult sometimes to tell the difference between an actual news story written by a journalist and a rant," Smith says. "Because on the screen they might look very similar."

She encourages us to ask critical questions about the information we scroll through on feeds, "Who is the sender of this message?  Are they reliable? What's their motive or intent?  How is this message constructed in order to get my attention?  What information is left out?  Who's profiting from this message?"

Some other tools Smith recommends:

Snopes

Emergent

Hoax Slayer

FactCheck.org

Smith also has a YouTube channel with videos on debunking misinformation - Julie Smith on YouTube

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