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As the election nears, Pittsburgh expert weighs in on how to spot disinformation

A sign that says "Vote."
Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

On today's show: As we enter the home stretch before the November election, we explain how you can identify misinformation and disinformation, even when it might look like a reputable source; the U.S. Supreme Court term begins today, and following the contentious Roe v. Wade ruling last term, we discuss what to expect this fall; and 50 years ago, how a group of working-class Black men in Pittsburgh transformed emergency care.

Today’s guests include: Kathleen Carley, computational social scientist and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, director of CMU’s Center for Informed Democracy and Social Cybersecurity, and director of the Center for Computational Analysis of Social and Organizational Systems; and David Harris, professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Law and WESA legal analyst.

U.S. Supreme Court term begins with a docket of contentious cases
(0:00 - 9:00)

The U.S. Supreme Court begins a new term today with several contentious cases ranging from voters' rights to affirmative action to one with Pittsburgh ties.

One of the most-watched cases this term concerns election law and something called independent state legislature theory. This case comes out of North Carolina. David Harris, University of Pittsburgh law professor and WESA’s legal analyst, says the challenge came after the North Carolina state Supreme Court struck down the congressional districts drawn by the state legislature.

“If you say that the state legislature is the only entity with power here, you effectively free them up to make the most radical kinds of choices and gerrymanders that you can imagine,” Harris says. “And there is no other institution in the state government structure to stop that or step in. I think that would be a grave mistake and I'm actually kind of surprised it made it to the Supreme Court, but not surprised that it's in this Supreme Court with this constitution of justices.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments today on a case involving federal wetlands regulation.

As the November election draws closer, how to spot disinformation

The midterm elections are five weeks from tomorrow and voters are being flooded with information including commercials for candidates, social media messaging, and news. But is all of it reliable or true? An analysis from NewsGuard, an organization that assesses the credibility and transparency of news and information sites, found some websites are disguised as local media outlets.

Kathleen Carley is a computational social scientist and professor at Carnegie Mellon University. She’s also the director of the school’s Center for Informed Democracy and Social Cybersecurity, and director of the Center for Computational Analysis of Social and Organizational Systems. Carley says it’s getting hard to spot dis- and misinformation.

“Most people have what’s called ‘my side bias,’ which means I’m good at spotting disinformation that disagrees with my point of view, but I’m not as good at spotting that which agrees with my point of view,” she says.

Carley says people should verify the sources their information is coming from, and they should also try to confirm it elsewhere from another trusted source.

The lasting impact of Freedom House ambulance service
(17:45 - 22:30)

More than 50 years ago, a group of working-class Black men here in Pittsburgh came together to create a new system of emergency care by giving paramedics more responsibility than just driving people to the ER. WESA arts and culture reporter Bill O’Driscoll has their story.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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