If you are active on social media, you may have seen a co-parent share some of this information. So how do you go about pushing back against lies? I asked three experts to weigh in.
If it’s someone you know, talk to them privately. Start by asking broad questions about their posts, such as: “What is it about? Can you explain that to me? Said Mike Rothschild, a conspiracy theory researcher and author of “The World’s Worst Conspiracies.” You are trying to gather knowledge about their beliefs in a non-adversarial way. “You will not try to debate or reject, it will make them believe they are right,”
Approach the topic with kindness and empathy. Paul Offit, MD, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, speaking with parents who have encountered vaccine conspiracy theories, said: “I am sympathetic to the fact that it is difficult to see your children being injected with a biological fluid, “he said.” I can see when people would be worried about it. “So try to engage with what your friend is really afraid if they post a lot about child trafficking. Are they afraid that their child will be kidnapped? If so, why not?
You need to be willing to meet them where they are, without calling them “crazy” or dismissing them out of hand. “Even an interest in the conspiracy to find out what their real pain or fear is that they are trying to tackle in their lives can give you information on how to reach them as they become more and more involved in this, ”Donovan explained.
Confirm when someone is not open for a discussion. If your friend is so deep in the QAnon world that they can not have a civil discussion about their faith, “Let them know that you love them, that you are here for them,” but let it go, Rothschild said – you can not “Speak someone out of a faith that they want.”
If it’s someone you do not know personally, answer with facts. If someone repeats misinformation, e.g. In a Facebook mom group, you can gently push back with a link to correct data, Donovan said. It’s appropriate to respond, “” I do not think this discussion has a place here, “and potentially link to some of the reports that are going on,” she said. If this misinformation is anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim, as many of the QAnon-related conspiracies tend to be, you should report these posts to either the moderator or the social media company, Donovan said. “It’s important to use the tools available on the platform to remove these posts.”
Catie Stewart ignored any Instagram messages that were violent or contained threats of violence against her or Senator Wiener, but she said she had a decent success rate that responded to voters who were just misinformed. “You helped pass a law in California for pedophiles, basically,” one parent originally wrote to Wiener’s account via Instagram DM, which Stewart shared with me. “As a mother, I need a clear understanding of what the laws that are being passed actually mean.”