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Before tweeting and posting about the presidential debate, check out these tips

Wednesday marks the final debate of the 2016 election season, and millions of people around the world will be watching it with a second screen in front of them. A word of warning before you retweet, like, share, believe, or make voting decisions based on someone’s Facebook or Twitter pronouncements:

Things are untrue on social media.

So please do America a favor. Check out not only (1) the statement that’s being made, but also (2) the alleged person who’s making it.

Here are some tips:

  1. Who is this person?
  • If the person is famous or is a legitimate journalist, look for a blue “verified” checkmark in their profile. Caveat: This is a great clue but not foolproof. Not all journalists have applied for verification, and verified users can be a prime target for hackers.
  • Look for these infamous red flags: An egg as a profile photo, a clearly fake name, an account that retweets often but never tweets, an account that contains gibberish and non-topical tweets.
  • Does the person have no followers and is following no one? Or does the person have tens of thousands of followers but you’ve never heard of him/her? Does the person tweet constantly and still have no followers? That’s not sad, it’s suspicious.
  • Do not retweet, follow, or share anything from anyone with a profile that mentions “social media influencer.” And block them from following you.
  • Check the person’s credentials elsewhere, like their alleged employer’s website or LinkedIn. (Again, this is not foolproof; you can fake a profile anywhere.)

2. Is what they’re saying true?

If you weren’t in the middle of watching a debate, you could spend days researching and interviewing experts about a particular statement, as legitimate fact-checkers do.

But you’re probably just going to Google it. Fine, but pay attention to your sources of information. Look for Google News’ new “Fact Check” labels. Look at the web site’s “About Us” section to get a sense of their mission, ideology, funding, supporters.

During the vice presidential debate, one of the questions people searched most often was: Does Trump have business links to Russia? Do a Google search, and you’ll come up with stories from non-partisan news organizations — along with partisan organizations like RedState.org.

Another question: When will Social Security run out of money? Google that, and again you’ll find stories from Time magazine, CNN and Forbes.

But you’ll also find a story from peopleof.oureverydaylife.com. Take a closer look: It’s a vehicle for selling insurance and financial services.

And even if you rely on information from impartial news sources (notice the plural “sources” — the more, the better), be aware of the type of content. Is it labeled “opinion” or “commentary” or “letter to the editor” or a reader comment?

Avoid those. Stick with regular news stories; the others will likely lead you astray in your search for facts.

And when you decide to share, retweet, email or message any “fact-checking” from the debate, let people know your source. Use a screenshot and it’ll cost you nothing in Twitter characters.

Too exhausted to do your own debate fact-checking? Here are some experts who can help.

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