NASHVILLE (WSMV) - In the age of social media, information is at our fingertips, even if it's misleading. The information we see on our phones populates based on our behavior online, which is motivated by our beliefs. Even information that isn't necessarily based in fact. 

"We just see far more pollution, if you will, on the internet around this pandemic," Lynette Owens, Global Director, Internet Safety for Kids and Families at Trend Micro, said.

The cyber security company recently launched Trend Micro Check a new free tool designed to identify fraud and misinformation. One of the areas of concern to Owens is the inundation of misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccine online.

"We think there’s danger not only to the persistence of misinformation during this pandemic, because we continue to see cybercrime, but also because now this literally could mean life or death," Owens said. 

But, Owens said, the misinformation plaguing our feeds is much more pervasive

"Your internet is not the same as my internet. You and I might search on a term on a search engine, the same term, but we may be displayed to very different results," Owens said. 

She explained that social media algorithms, the formula by which your feed is curated, are individualized and often reflect what you already believe. 

"Those algorithms are fed by the choices we make. who we choose to follow, what terms we search for," Owens explained.

"Question your own motivations. Are you only following the people that confirm what you always want to believe, or do you challenge yourself to try and understand noter point of view?" She added, "I do think the social networking sites can help to challenge us in this process as well."

Owens recommended taking a pause when coming across new information. Don't believe or share everything you see immediately.

"Media is much like a diet where you need to chew your food before you swallow," she said. "To think that the internet does not play an integral part in our democracy is really being quite blind to the reality. And we really need to reimagine and rethink its role in our society, in our education, in how we engage with each other in how a democratic society functions."

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