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Don't believe everything you read online

Did you hear Joe Biden’s proposed capital gains tax increase would cost you 40% of the profit if you sell your home? Did you know the signature red “Make America Great Again” hats worn by supporters of Donald Trump are made in China?

Neither of these statements is entirely accurate. But the internet doesn’t do nuance. To paraphrase an old saying, false Facebook posts go around the world in the time it takes the truth to put its boots on.

The capital gains tax claim? Biden’s proposal would increase the rate only for those earning more than $1 million a year in taxable income.

The MAGA hats claim, which has circulated seemingly forever? Official Trump campaign hats are made in the United States, and the proceeds from their sale are considered donations to a fundraising committee jointly operated by the campaign and the Republican National Committee.

A Facebook post after the final presidential debate last week claimed President Trump said “good” in reference to immigrant families being separated at the border. In fact, the transcript of the debate clearly showed he said “go ahead” to moderator Kristen Walker, who was trying to move on to a new topic.

The Facebook page Close the Camps, which originated the post, corrected it after Reuters fact-checked it. But the damage was done. Correcting a false Facebook post is about as effective as un-ringing a bell.

Also after that debate, a video shared on Facebook claimed Joe Biden had an iPad on his podium. The video supposedly showed a staffer removing an iPad after the debate ended. In fact, Biden and Trump had identical paper notepads with cardboard backs, which were removed after the debate.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. False claims and disinformation are rampant on social media, and despite some belated efforts by Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, it’s virtually impossible to stop them. We won’t even get into satire, a separate but related topic that wreaks havoc regularly.

What’s a poor voter to do?

Don’t rely on social media to tell you what the candidates say or do if it hasn’t been vetted by news organizations. If you want to know about a candidate’s policy proposals, go to the source. Their campaign websites have that information and you can evaluate it for yourself, or simply type in a search for news articles about the topic in question. You’ll get more detail and more accuracy from those than from some social media post.

It’s not easy sorting the truth from the spin on the information (and misinformation) superhighway. But take heart: It’s almost over. Election Day is just around the corner.

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