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2020 elections: How to spot misinformation on Facebook and Twitter

Yahoo Finance's Dan Howley discusses how to spot misinformation on Facebook and Twitter.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: What it means for big tech, because we know many of these big tech names have been under pressure really from both sides of the aisle facing potential regulations. Dan Howley is here to break all this down for us. And Dan, I think the big question going into the results tonight is whether or not it matters who is in the White House or if the difference is really in how the two administrations will likely approach potential regulations.

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah, I think, you know, basically from a broad perspective, it doesn't matter who's in the White House, big tech, the hammer is coming for them regardless. You look at the different issues that are on the table right now, antitrust is obviously the big one. That has little to do with really who's in the White House, because both Democrats and Republicans see antitrust issues with the likes of Amazon, Alphabet, Google's parent, Apple and Facebook. You know, we had a bipartisan committee come forward and find that there were issues with antitrust and illegal monopolies as far as those companies go.

What we did, however, see from that committee, it was the House subcommittee, basically was that Republicans, Democrats have different ideas on how to address the antitrust issue with big tech. So Republicans want to take a less heavy handed approach. Democrats say that we need to go in and really change some of the basic laws around monopolies to deal with the way big tech operates. And then of course, outside of that, there's also Section 230. That has become a major flashpoint for President Trump in particular, basically saying that there is an anti-conservative bias, of which there is by the way no proof of that has been brought forward, and in fact, recent reports from the likes of NBC News, "The Washington Post" have showed that there is a bias towards allowing the spread of conservative voices on Facebook.

And BuzzFeed recently reported that there were issues with some big name liberal sites on Facebook being able to reach their audiences at a maximum, so but outside of that, Section 230 has detractors on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats. Republicans, again, see that anti-conservative bias as reason to rewrite the rules of Section 230, which is basically a libel shield, a legal libel shield, for companies like Facebook, Google, Yelp, anything with a comment section or the ability for people to comment on the internet is protected by that. Democrats, meanwhile, say that the 230 needs to be rewritten, because it allows these companies to put up or allow users to put up misinformation without being held accountable for it. So there's going to be some kind of change there.

And then finally, one of the biggest issues is China. The big tech issues going on there with the likes of Huawei and ZTE being classified as national security threats. The Trump administration obviously has had a lot to say about China given the fact that they worked on that trade deal and were looking to get a second stage of the trade deal to go through. Obviously, that hasn't happened, but this is something that we've heard repeatedly from the Trump administration.

Huawei, ZTE, if they are able to use or put their equipment into the US 5G networks, they would be able to tap in and then spy on US companies, citizens, even the government. That, though, is something that's been around since the Obama administration. That was when the NSA was actually spying on Huawei and when the House Intelligence Committee had released a report saying that they were a national security threat, so this is something that's going to continue to go on regardless of who's in the White House, as will section 230, and as will the antitrust issues.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Dan, when I hear all of this, I think of Rodney Dangerfield, and I just assume the big tech companies, they get no respect, right? Because senators, congressmen, doesn't matter Republican, Democrat, Independent, Socialist, Bernie Sanders, they love to beat up on tech. So I would imagine, wouldn't you, that the first thing that happens in the next six months no matter who wins is we get another hearing on Capitol Hill so that they can all pontificate and bloviate and say nasty things?

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah, I mean, that's literally been every hearing for big tech so far. I mean, we were supposed to have the Section 230 hearing, and that just devolved into sniping between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats saying that the second 230 hearing was coming too close to an election. Republicans trying to air their grievances again about the unfounded anti-conservative bias. But we're still going to see some big tech names in front of the Judiciary Committee, that's going to be coming up in short order. Not before Inauguration Day, but I think, you know, with the next president as well, we'll continue to see these names front and center.

The first antitrust investigation into Google by the DOJ and State Attorneys General was only just announced. The suit was only recently filed. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, they are still under the gun, and you can expect something to come either from the FTC or the DOJ in whichever case the agencies are investigating which company in some time.

SEANA SMITH: Hi, I'm curious. I just wanted to shift the focus moreso on tonight and tomorrow morning, and maybe if we don't get the results for a couple of days, because I think a lot of the questions, and I'm sure a lot of our viewers have this question, just if they see something on Twitter or they see something on Facebook, they're not sure whether or not they should trust it. They don't know if it's a fact or if it's fiction. Help us just understand how we best figure this out, because I think this is a concern for a lot of voters and just a lot of Americans in general going into tonight and what exactly we can trust.

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah, I think really, you know, a lot of misinformation seems to be coming out of Pennsylvania. That's what "The New York Times" is reporting right now. There seems to be a lot going on there as far as, you know, people trying to spread information about the polling stations or people who are saying that observers aren't being allowed in, and that appears to be nothing more than misinformation being spread online. That's something that I think, you know, if you see something along those lines, the best bet is to not listen to your uncle's friends' co-worker who they knew in high school or something like that, go to an authoritative source.

Yahoo Finance is an authoritative source. But you can go to any major news organization, make sure it doesn't have a partisan slant, that's something that's also very important. And you can always look at something like Snopes or factcheck.org. They are using independent fact checking to ensure that what you see is really what you see, and if it's not, that it's not. The other thing to really look at is photos. A lot of times, you'll see a photo that isn't necessarily doctored, but it's been taken out of context, or it's from several years ago.

So if you see a photo alleging to be, for instance, ballots left out in the open or left on the side of the road, that was something that was spreading, it turned out to just be mailboxes, you know, postal carriage boxes, that were from years ago and didn't necessarily have ballots in them. So you're going to be seeing things like this. The best idea is to take a deep breath, really assess who is setting out this information, who the person is that posted it, and if it's not from an authoritative source, don't retweet it, don't believe it.