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Claims of election fraud have been debunked but repeated. Myths about COVID-19 precautions like masks and social distancing persist, even as a third wave of infections rolls through the country. Research has shown that fake news is bad for democracy — and in a pandemic, it may be a matter of life or death.

About 1 in 5 Americans get their news from social media, according to the Pew Research Center. While a recent Science Advances study stated that not even a tenth of 1% of the content people see is fake news, scientists note that many misunderstand what they are reading or watching, even from legitimate sources. They all agree the spread of fake news and misinformation — including misunderstanding real news — across social media communities is a worsening problem.

Ideas for stopping fake news have run the gamut. Some of them, such as censorship of social media posts, run counter to American ideals and — in some instances — free speech. USC scientists are recommending other moves to curtail the rise of misinformation, including new ideas for social platforms to avoid issues with censorship.

Through quality control, media companies can help stop fake news

Longtime journalist and adjunct professor Marc Ambinder believes that all media companies — not just the social platforms — could implement better quality control for the content that ends up shared among users.

“All platforms need to set up viral ‘circuit breakers’ so they
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