With just a few weeks until the Nov. 7 election that will select mayors in both Camas and Washougal and could alter the makeup of the Camas City Council, our focus is firmly on how we, as local journalists with limited resources and a finite amount of news space in our print issues, can deliver the most up-to-date, unbiased and accurate election information possible.
We have interviewed most of the candidates and are still hoping to hear back from others. If all goes according to plan, we will publish profile stories about every candidate involved in contested races in Camas and Washougal within the next two weeks. Today’s paper gives an overview of local candidates who participated in the League of Women Voters of Clark County’s Oct. 4 candidate forum at the Vancouver Community Library, but to get a full sense of those candidates and their views on the future of Camas and Washougal, we recommend voters watch the entire candidate forum on cvtv.org.
Watching candidates respond in this type of forum setting can go a long way toward understanding how these folks might vote in the future and how they might respond to some of the critical revenue, infrastructure, affordable housing and economic development issues facing both Camas and Washougal.
Unfortunately, voters are often too rushed to watch candidate forums or attend city council meetings to better understand some of the local issues that can impact their daily lives, especially when it comes to things understaffed fire departments, failing fire stations that will cost millions of dollars to replace, cleaning toxic algal blooms in the lakes, fixing roads and library roofs, and implementing measures that will help the area fight climate change and respond to climate-related threats such as heat, flooding and wildfires.
Too often, voters in places like Camas and Washougal are turning to a faster means of getting their election news and, instead of reading traditional newspapers or watching candidate forums, are seeking information on social media sites like Nextdoor, Facebook and Twitter.
Though social media can be an excellent resource for discussing local issues with trusted neighbors and friends, or finding out about events that might put you face-to-face with local city council or mayoral candidates, these sites also are known for hosting an extraordinary amount of half-truths and outright political propaganda.
Just look what has happened on Twitter — which its owner, billionaire Elon Musk, is currently rebranding as “X” — this week.
As the Associated Press reported this week, Musk’s Twitter has “deteriorated to the point that it’s not just failing to clamp down on misinformation but is favoring posts by accounts that pay for its blue-check subscription service, regardless of who runs them.”
“Twitter has always struggled with combating misinformation about major news events, it was still the go-to place to find out what’s happening in the world,” the AP reported. “But the Israel-Hamas war has underscored how the platform … has become not only unreliable but is actively promoting falsehoods.”
Media Matters journalists have been detailing the rampant disinformation regarding the Israel-Hamas war that has appeared — and sometimes gone viral — on Twitter over the past few days and concluded that Musk’s social media platform “failed spectacularly, with misinformation proliferating as paid verified accounts spread misleading videos, a doctored photo, and other misinformation.”
One post that claimed it showed a Hamas militant striking an Israeli helicopter with a shoulder-mounted weapon — which has been viewed nearly two million times — was, in reality, not even a video of real humans or weapons but, rather, taken from the video game Arma 3.
As NBC News reported this week that a “propaganda network” of 67 accounts on Twitter (X) has been spreading a coordinated disinformation campaign about the Israeli-Hamas war.
“… the research is believed to be the first concrete evidence that deliberate propaganda to mislead people about the conflict has gone unchecked on the platform,” NBC News reported Tuesday. “Combined, the accounts’ misleading posts and videos have millions of views.”
We know hundreds if not thousands of Camas-Washougal voters also get a great deal of their local political “news” on the social media site known as Nextdoor, which bills itself as a hyperlocal social media platform for specific neighborhoods. Though the site can be a great place for neighbors looking to help their community, find a missing pet or coordinate a local event, Nextdoor has, more recently, been a place where misinformation and disinformation, especially during local elections, can proliferate.
Earlier this year, The Atlantic wrote about Nextdoor’s role in a heated campaign on Mercer Island near Seattle and noted that “community moderators say the social network is being exploited for political gain.”
The article quoted an email from Mercer Island Nextdoor moderators that claimed the social media site — through its use of unpaid and somewhat unregulated moderators who could delete or promote posts based on political ideologies alone — was interfering in the local election outcomes.
“At this point, Nextdoor is actively tampering in local elections,” the moderators told the Nextdoor parent company. “It’s awful and extraordinarily undemocratic.”
As we barrel through another election season in Camas-Washougal and look ahead to the critical 2024 presidential election, we need to talk to our family, friends and neighbors about where we can find quality sources of information about the candidates and the issues that will impact our everyday lives and set things in motion that could negatively impact future generations.
Here are a few good resources to get you started: