The Sift: Halloween candy myths | Katy Perry rumors | AP on TikTok

 

Teach news literacy this week
Halloween candy myths | Katy Perry rumors | AP on TikTok

 
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Top picks

The top editor at Oregon’s largest newspaper recently apologized for the paper’s historically racist and xenophobic coverage. The public apology introduces The Oregonian’s “Publishing Prejudice” series, a project prompted by the 2020 murder of George Floyd that examines the 161-year-old daily newspaper’s racist legacy. The Oregonian found that its own news coverage and editorials excused lynching, opposed equal rights, celebrated the Chinese Exclusion Act, supported the WWII imprisonment of people of Japanese descent and more. In her apology, editor Therese Bottomly described racist coverage from the paper’s archives as “Revolting. Painful. Indefensible.”
  • Discuss: What do you think of The Oregonian editor’s apology? Why do you think she felt an apology was necessary? When news organizations publish apologies for their historic racist coverage, is it a meaningful way to rebuild trust? How does past news coverage affect communities today?
  • Idea: Have students search their local newspaper archives at Newspapers.com [login required], or have them explore one of the newspapers featured in this database of harmful historical coverage in the United States. Examine front pages from different eras and discuss how nonwhite residents are covered (or not covered). Who did the paper write for? How has news coverage changed over the decades?
  • Related:
 
classroom-ready icon Use this think sheet to better understand The Oregonian’s past racist coverage and how the newspaper is addressing the legacy it leaves.
 
The perceived threat of fentanyl-laced Halloween candy has some elected officials and media outlets ringing alarm bells, but doctors and drug experts say the warnings are exaggerated. Joel Best, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware, has tracked news reports of contaminated treats for decades and found no evidence of any child seriously injured or killed by treats received from trick-or-treating. While “rainbow fentanyl” is made to look like candy, no drug cartels are known to have targeted Halloween candy.
  • Discuss: What is a zombie rumor? Do you think the motives of some people who pushed this rumor are different than the motives of concerned parents who shared it? What other kinds of overhyped, fear-based rumors have you encountered? Why do you think this kind of rumor has spread so widely — and for so many decades?
  • Resource: “Misinformation” (NLP’s Checkology® virtual classroom).
  • Related: “Scary drug-laced Halloween candy rumor spreads without evidence” (Dan Evon, NLP’s RumorGuard).
 
A communal digital Día de Muertos altar created by the Los Angeles Times last year was so popular — drawing more than 1,000 submissions — that the paper is bringing it back this year. Readers can make their own digital ofrenda with photos and messages to celebrate and mourn loved ones who have died.
You read that right! We’ve relaunched the Viral Rumor Rundown you know and love in a new platform called RumorGuard.
 
 

Ballot applications mailed to dead people don’t prove fraud

A Facebook post that includes a photo of a ballot application and a letter that appears to be from Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke’s campaign. The text of the post reads, “For those that wonder why mail in ballots and IDs are an issue with voting. This was originally posted by Kevin Mackey from Three Rivers, Texas!!  I received, in the mail, a letter from Robert O’Rourke’s campaign for Texas Governor saying, “We can’t count out a single vote in a race as close as this one.” The problem, it was sent to my mother. My mother died Feb. 2, 2020, two and half years ago. The good news. It was mailed to my Post Office Box. I got it and I am an honest person.  Bad news. I am not the only one getting these for dead people. Much of the information is already filled in. A family member can easily get the other information. A stranger, now at an old address for your deceased family member, with just a little bit of google skills can too. A dishonest recipient could fill this in and send it to the already addressed Live Oak County Voter Register’s office, POST PAID, and register the deceased to vote. They then can request a mail ballot. With the numbers already provided for ID, they then can vote for the deceased person. No picture ID required.  Remember, the letter says, “We can’t count out a single vote in a race as close as this one.” Is it possible that one of these will fall into the hands of a dishonest person? I am certain that many will. If you have had a family member die in the last few years, check the county registered voters list to see if someone fraudulent registered them. If so report it to the County Register’s Office.  JUST TO MAKE THIS CLEAR ... I didn’t hear this from a friend of a second cousin... Those papers have MY ADDRESS, My Mother’s name, My Mother’s birth date, etc.  This isn’t about some county in Oklahoma, New York, or Pennsylvania. It is LIVE OAK COUNTY, TEXAS. It didn’t happen in 2020, or 2016, it happened in September 2022. THIS IS HOW VOTER FRAUD IS ENABLED.  #democratsdestroyamerica #VoterFraud #DontCaliforniaMyTexas.” The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “NO EVIDENCE OF FRAUD.”

NO: Ballot request applications sent to deceased people are not evidence that it is easy to cast votes on their behalf. YES: Every state has procedures in place to remove dead people from voter rolls on a regular basis, and applications sent in on behalf of a dead person are routinely rejected. YES: It is a crime to attempt to obtain a ballot in the name of a dead person. On rare occasions people do try to vote on behalf of dead people and are charged with voter fraud. YES: Every state has additional checks in place — including signature verification and another check against updated voter rolls — to prevent fraud.

NewsLit takeaway: Election misinformation narratives often cause people to misinterpret ordinary aspects of elections and can become self-sustaining as they spread. Third parties that send ballot applications are less diligent than state officials about keeping their records updated — and sometimes send applications to an ineligible voter, adding to a widespread but misguided perception that votes are commonly cast on behalf of dead people. When it comes to staying informed about election security, seek out credible, verified information and official sources rather than viral claims found on social media.

 

Claim falsely attributes Katy Perry’s odd eye movement to COVID-19 vaccine

An Instagram post reads, “Eye of the Pfizer #wtf #Eyeofthetiger #fafo #boosted” and features a video of singer Katy Perry oddly blinking. The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “NOT VACCINE SIDE EFFECT.”

NO: The movement of Katy Perry’s eye in this video of her performing at a Las Vegas concert is not related to a COVID-19 vaccine side effect. YES: The incident sparked other conspiratorial speculation about robotic clones and even connections to antisemitic conspiracy theories. YES: Perry has addressed the incident and explained that it was a “party trick” for her act. NO: “Eye glitches” are not a known COVID-19 vaccine side effect.

NewsLit takeaway: Anti-vaccination trolls often try to find ways to attribute strange viral moments to the COVID-19 vaccines, but such claims lack evidence and have the potential to spread harm. This video of Perry’s eye “glitching” during an October 2022 concert was no exception. As the video racked up millions of views, many people dismissed the most likely explanations in favor of their preferred conspiratorial ideas. While wide-ranging, these conspiratorial claims all had one critical characteristic in common: a complete lack of evidence.

You can find this week's rumor examples to use with students in these slides.
Kickers
The man charged with attempted kidnapping of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and assault against her husband, Paul, was steeped in QAnon and other fringe conspiratorial beliefs. Also, Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, pushed misinformation about the attack in a since-deleted tweet.
A new ProPublica investigation found that Google’s ad business funds disinformation across the globe by regularly placing ads on non-English-language websites that push falsehoods on topics such as elections, vaccines, COVID-19 and climate change.
When it comes to trust in news, the Pew Research Center found that adults under 30 now trust information on social media almost as much as national news organizations.
Check out three nonprofit newsrooms that are changing the playbook for election reporting by shifting the focus from a “horse race” approach to coverage that instead revolves around voters.
In a boon to local news, reporting from a new journalism collaborative in underserved communities along Florida’s Gulf Coast will be shared and published by 12 news outlets in the region.
The New York Times Learning Network rounded up eight films for students about digital media, which cover topics including online privacy for children and how conspiracy theories spread.
In The Associated Press’ first TikTok, the global news agency acknowledged its 176-year history in delivering the news from Telegraph➡️Teletype➡️TikTok.
 
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Your weekly issue of The Sift is created by Susan Minichiello (@susanmini), Dan Evon (@danieljevon), Peter Adams (@PeterD_Adams), Hannah Covington (@HannahCov) and Pamela Brunskill (@PamelaBrunskill). It is edited by Mary Kane (@marykkane) and Lourdes Venard (@lourdesvenard).

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Check out NLP's Checkology virtual classroom, where students learn how to navigate today’s information landscape by developing news literacy skills.