Two Clemson University professors want to fight online misinformation by giving everyone a pop quiz. But don’t worry, it’s only eight questions.
Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren have debuted this week “Spot the Troll,” an educational tool to guide users toward being better informed on social media while asking participants to divine the legitimate profiles from those linked to foreign governments.
Spreading wrong or deliberately false information online often starts with fake accounts. A post is then shared by real people who feel the posts speak to their personal or political beliefs. Linvill and Warren have identified millions of such posts since the 2016 election where U.S. officials uncovered efforts by Russians to sow disinformation on social media.
Social media’s proliferation of disinformation has been listed as a top security concern for the 2020 election.
If the thought of a pop quiz is giving you anxiety (hello, recurrent nightmare in the meritocracy), you’re not alone. Linvill told the City Paper he is hearing from participants who are “overthinking” or not going with their gut (although, he warned, sometimes your gut isn’t always right). And for those who just want to get it right? Relax — no GPAs to worry about.
“This quiz is about the journey, not the destination. I don’t care what your score is. I care that you went through it and thought about it,” Linvill said. “Our goal is to get people to consider who they’re engaging with, who they are retweeting and not do it lightly because their accounts are the tools of disinformation. Disinformation doesn’t spread without people spreading it.”
The quiz is part of Clemson’s new Media Forensics Hub, which seeks to engage and educate the public at large, to make it easier to spot disinformation.
So, how can you get a perfect score on the quiz?
“The main thing is to be wary. When something looks too good to be true, it probably is. And at the end of the day, strangers don’t always have your best interests at heart. There are signs one can look for that someone is a real human being,” Linvill said. “Trolls don’t have depth.”
In other words: Legitimate profiles tend to have personal posts and information scattered amid the political beliefs and post-sharing.
Take the quiz at: spotthetroll.org.