Opinion | Fact-check and listen to alternative narratives

Fact-checking the spread of disinformation is key for the campus community.


Yasmina Sahir, Opinions Columnist

Even though the hectic 2020 election and the events that occurred after seem like they happened just the other day, I predict this next year will become noticeably more focused on politics. 

In 2024, the U.S. could elect its 47th president. As with any pre-election year, campaign and smear ads alike are expected before the end of 2023. 

Hearing alternative narratives — even when untrue or biased — only furthers our own advocacy and understanding of other people. By focusing on verified information and working together to achieve community goals, even if they first appear to be in opposition, I see some hope for the future. 

College students are needed in the polls. In the 2022 midterms, young people are leading election results. No matter which side of the aisle you align with, it is important to recognize the power that comes with being a young voter. 

Of concern to professionals in fields like sociology and psychology, young adults in the 18-29 age group and all adults with some college education are not only controlling the polls but are also the highest internet users in the U.S.  

In order to lead local, statewide, and national elections in a way that benefits all citizens, being properly informed on issues and diverse perspectives is key. To accomplish this, we must all do our best on campus to combat disinformation in the classroom and online, disengage in trolling behavior, and allow everyone the right to access information. 

Understanding campaign issues means citizens are engaged in voting years as well as the years between elections. With trolling, disinformation, and internet censorship becoming increasingly common since the 2020 pandemic lockdown, a simple Google search these days feels like preparing for an information war. 

But being aware goes beyond understanding campaign promises and goals. In college programs, students should be learning and embracing several concepts that may not seem relevant to their academic aspirations. These skills are intrinsically tied to the quality of information students receive and how they choose to vote. 

Essential skills to combating misinformation online, at the polls, and in the classroom were outlined in 2022 by the American Psychological Association. 

One concept highlighted by the APA is the importance of informing college students how to examine the weight and validity of any academic argument or study result. Students should also be aware of the author and personal biases when trusting online information. 

Fact checking and source evaluation is another skill with positive benefits for class work and understanding political campaigns. Using search engines to first identify a source of information — but also to research the source itself, any persons quoted, and potential political or professional biases — is key to ensuring sources are as unbiased and reliable as possible. 

As a student passionate about justice and equity, I often feel conflicted in these conversations. As a library employee, I have an obligation to ensure information is readily available for every patron. As a local activist, second-generation immigrant, and North African woman, I can’t always agree that all opinions or “information” should be given the same value or attention. 

Sitting in a classroom in the first week of the spring 2023 semester, I heard similar sentiments and personal conflicts from folks with identities and political perspectives similar to my own. 

As I weighed these internal conflicts, I realized my top priority in this state and on campus is forward progress. Attacking others on opposing lines or not allowing all perspectives to be heard only harms the idea that we can and must work together to build a better, more equitable, and more just tomorrow. 

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.