Sorting fact from fiction

Fact from fiction

Social media can help you find out what candidates and parties stand for, but you need to know how to sort fact from fiction because you can't trust everything you see on your feed.
Video transcript

Elections can generate lots of differing views and opinions, and your social media feeds might be filled with posts and ads about the election.

Social media is a popular way to talk about the election and see different sides of a debate.

It can help you find out what candidates and parties stand for, but you need to know how to sort fact from fiction because you can't trust everything you see on your feed.

Just remember that on social media, anyone can share their views, and that includes people or groups trying to spread false information or who just get it wrong.

Here are some steps you can take to make sure the information that is informing your vote is correct.

First, always look for a source on any news you see. Is it from a source you know and trust? If it isn't, do some online digging and check out the person or organisation behind the post.

After you've done that, have a look at the number of real followers the account has. Does it have a lot of bots following it? That might indicate that the source can't be trusted.

Another thing to ask could be, is this an opinion piece? Is it balanced? You should also ask yourself why it's been posted and what the author might gain by putting forward only one side of the story.

Does a political ad make you excited or furious? Inflammatory or sensational posts get more engagement on social media so advertisers are more likely to use extreme language to reach more people.

They might also use micro-targeting to show you ads based on your location, age or political interests.

If it's a political ad, has it been authorised? This means that the person or group behind the ad has clearly stated their contact details, rather than hiding behind an anonymous account.

If after all of this you're still unsure about the information, check out our website – a source of election information you can absolutely trust.

Don't contribute to the spread of nasty fiction or incompetent research. And remember, you can report anything you think is misinformation to all the social media platforms now.

Sort fact from fiction this election and know that you'll be casting an informed vote.

Jump to the misinformation register

False or inaccurate information can easily spread online, sometimes unintentionally. It's important to think carefully about all electoral information you see this election.

Ask yourself these questions to help sort fact from fiction:

  • Is it from a reliable source?
  • Is it current?
  • Is it authorised?
  • Is it coming from a real person and not a 'bot'?

Misinformation is when information is spread that is believed to be true by those who are sharing it, but which is actually incorrect.

Disinformation is when information is designed to deliberately mislead and influence public opinion or obscure the truth for malicious or deceptive purposes.

You might come across both types during the election period.

This information is available in an Easy English guide (PDF) at the bottom of this page. 

Check the source

Is the information published by a person or organisation with a reputation for accurate reporting? Or is it difficult to find what the source is at all? Information that seeks to mislead people is often from a website or news source that you've never heard of. If you're unsure, see if you can find a similar story from a source you trust.

Check the date

Make sure any information you are consuming about an election is current. Information that is more than 6 months old might not have all the latest facts.

Check for authorisation

Has the person who wants to share this information put their name to it? Messages that seek to influence how people vote must include an authorisation statement. If there is no authorisation statement, the information might not be reliable.

An example of authorisation on an Instagram post. The posted image is a black square with text that says

Check who is spreading it

Sometimes information isn't posted by humans and instead is published by bots. A bot is a piece of software that is programmed to automatically complete certain tasks. Social media bots can be programmed to mimic human users by posting updates, replying to other users, and sharing links and news stories.

Sometimes bot accounts use social media to deliberately spread incorrect information. Check the profile of the account posting the information to see if it is a legitimate account, or one that looks like it has been set up to push a particular message.

Things such as the account's posting history, number of followers or location may help you figure out whether a real person is posting from the account.

A screenshot of bots on twitter. There are 4 different profiles all tweeting the same thing about a new app. The accounts all have long strings of numbers at the end, like @Charles79929420.

Check who is paying for it

If you see sponsored advertising related to an election on social media, you can check to see who has paid for it.

Ads on social media will be marked 'sponsored' or 'paid for by [company name]'. You can click this information or the ellipsis on the post (...) to find out who has paid for it.

Facebook example of how to see who paid for an ad. The ad reads

Advertisers online can target people based on their location, age, gender, websites they have visited or other characteristics. Ask yourself why this message or ad may have been sent to you.

Check how it makes you feel

If the information makes you feel angry or excited, take time to check the facts of the story. It might be an opinion piece that is designed to make people share it around. If you're not sure if the information is true – then don't share it.

Know who to trust

We are the impartial 'umpire' that runs State and local council elections in Victoria and makes sure that all election participants play by the rules. We are independent of government, and our aim is to make sure that all eligible Victorians are equal at the ballot box. We'll be sharing some of the myths we come across in the lead up to the 2022 State election, so check this page frequently. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

While we will address myths and false information about election processes, it's important to understand that we don't regulate political advertising. Victorian electoral law does not require electoral campaign material to be truthful, so we encourage you to use the tips on this page to sort fact from fiction and do your own research.

Misinformation register

This register lists the electoral misinformation we have discovered, along with the corresponding facts. 

  • Misinformation: local council elections are not valid because there are no writs and they are not in the constitution

    Fact: unlike a state election, a writ does not need to be issued for a local council election in Victoria. The process for holding local council elections is set out in the Local Government Act 2020 and Local Government (Electoral) Regulations 2020, which also fixes the dates for local council general elections. The tier of local government is recognised in Victoria’s Constitution Act 1975 in sections 74A and 74B.

  • Misinformation: postal voting is not secret or secure

    Fact: we have systems in place to ensure postal voting is secret and secure. We separate voter details from postal ballot envelopes before they are opened so you cannot be associated with your completed ballot paper.

    Our extensive integrity checks ensure that any attempt at postal vote fraud are detected and dealt with immediately. This is how we identified an alleged attempt at postal vote fraud in Moreland's North West Ward in the 2020 local council elections.

  • Misinformation: the VEC uses Dominion/Scytl vote counting software

    Fact: lower house ballot papers are counted by hand, under the supervision of scrutineers.

    Upper house ballot papers are counted using software that has been developed in-house and has been independently audited.

  • Misinformation: people who aren't vaccinated won't be able to vote

    Fact: all Victorians on the electoral roll will be able to vote in this election, regardless of their vaccination status. This can be in person at a voting centre or by post.

  • Misinformation: the VEC is an arm of the state government

    Fact: we are an independent, impartial, and neutral statutory body set up under the Electoral Act 2002.

    We are not subject to direction from any minister and our actions are scrutinised by Parliament's Electoral Matters Committee. This committee is made up of members from several political parties. 

    All employees must fill out a Disclosure of political activities form before they can work for us. This includes all casuals who work at elections. 

    We may reject employment to people based on their past political activities. For more information see Disclosure of political activities.

  • Misinformation: the VEC is silencing free speech and targeting certain groups

    Fact: we are impartial and apply the law equally. We encourage political debate but must make sure this debate follows all electoral rules. This includes making sure anyone who publishes electoral material authorises it by adding their name and address to that material. This means voters can decide for themselves how much to trust the information. 

    We don't make the electoral rules (that is the role of Government) but we are responsible for applying them.

    More information about authorisation.

  • Misinformation: the VEC use pencils at voting centres so we can change your vote

    Fact: we offer pencils at voting centres because they do not dry out or get jammed like pens can. You are welcome to bring your own pen if you like! 

    Scrutineers are appointed by each candidate and can observe all aspects of ballot handling, such as vote counting. They can challenge us if they think we have made a mistake. Changing your vote is simply not possible under our transparent system.

  • Misinformation: the VEC is perverting the course of democracy by partnering with online platforms

    Fact: we recently made arrangements with 5 online platforms to establish a framework to refer harmful electoral disinformation to them for restriction or removal, where that content breaches Victoria's Electoral Act 2002 (the Act) or the platform's policies.

    We have partnered with the platforms directly, independently of government, to ensure the integrity of the Victorian State election by putting in place working arrangements to address breaches of the Act and related laws in the online environment. You can read our Statement of intent below.

    The role of the Electoral Commissioner is to ensure compliance with the Electoral Act – the legislation about who can enrol, who can vote, the method of voting and how to complete ballot papers so that they are formal. That is the only accuracy of content that we are interested in. We do not regulate truth in political advertising.

    Our role is to be the impartial, independent umpire that protects the integrity of the electoral process across the state, ensuring all participants play by the rules.

  • Misinformation: not needing ID to enrol will lead to enrolment fraud. Anyone can change their enrolled address to somewhere they don't live
    Fact: if someone wants to enrol but they don’t have a drivers' licence or passport, they can ask someone on the roll to confirm their identity. The person enrolling and the person verifying their identity sign a declaration, and providing false information to us is a serious offence.

    We take the integrity of the roll very seriously and undertake regular activities to maintain its accuracy. Under our joint roll arrangement with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), the AEC will determine electors' eligibility as part of their enrolment process before providing this data to us for inclusion on our register of electors. We will then investigate any duplicates that arise from this process.

    Electors are also able to lodge an objection with us directly if they believe someone has enrolled fraudulently, such as for an address that is not their principal place of residence. See Someone has incorrect or inaccurate details.


  • Misinformation: applying to be a general postal voter if you’re over 70 will mean you’ll get a postal ballot pack for all future federal, state and local council elections.

    Fact: if you are applying to be a general postal voter and select the ‘over 70 years of age’ eligibility criteria, or if this has been selected for you on a pre-populated general postal voter application form, you will only be enrolled as a general postal voter for future Victorian state and local council elections. You need to belong to one of the other eligibility categories (found on our Become a general postal voter page) to be enrolled for all future election events

  • Misinformation: the 2018 State election result is not legitimate because the election writs did not carry an official seal.

    Fact: a seal is not required in the issuing of the writs for a state election.

    All that is required is the simple signature of the Governor of Victoria.

    This is clearly set out in Schedule 1 of the Electoral Act 2002, which sets out the form of the writ for an election.

  • Misinformation: the VEC has partnered with the World Economic Forum (WEF) for the upcoming state election, allowing the World Economic Forum to oversee and count votes

    Fact: we have not partnered with the WEF or any other organisation to count votes for the 2022 State election.

    VEC staff count all lower house votes by hand, under the supervision of scrutineers appointed by each candidate.

    This misinformation has been disproven by AAP FactCheck. Read about their investigation.

  • Misinformation: the 2022 State election is not legitimate because the writs have not been signed and are not publicly available

    Fact: the writs were signed by the Governor and provided to us on Tuesday 1 November 2022. This is evidenced by numerous sources, including footage of the signing itself (Writs issued for Victorian state election | Sky News Australia). A record is also provided in the Victorian Government Gazette (No. S 622, Tuesday 1 November 2022).

    Similar claims about writs lacking a formal seal have been made to question the legitimacy of election at both the state and federal levels. All such claims have been proved wrong.

    See Lack of seals doesn't make Victorian election result fishy - Australian Associated Press ( and Election writs claim fails to gain seal of approval - Australian Associated Press (

    View the 2022 State election writs.

  • Misinformation: the election will be void if less than half of people vote

    Fact: there is no legislative basis for this claim. We will count all the formal votes in an election and there is no threshold under which the participation rate would trigger a 'void' election. Democratic participation is historically very high. For example, 90% of eligible Victorians turned out to vote at the 2018 State election.

  • Misinformation: the 2023 Mulgrave District by-election is not legitimate because the writ has not been signed and is not publicly available.

    Fact: the writ was signed by the speaker of the Legislative Assembly and provided to us on Monday 23 October 2023.

    View the writ

  • How we work with online platforms

    In September 2022 we signed an agreement with 5 online platforms to set out how we will work together to reduce the risk of harm that may arise from the spread disinformation and misinformation. This agreement is known as a 'statement of intent', and you can download it below.