The Sift: ‘Libs of TikTok’ fallout | Fainting nurse conspiracy theory

 

Teach news literacy this week
'Libs of TikTok' fallout | Fainting nurse conspiracy theory

 
classroom-ready icon Dig deeper: Don’t miss this week’s classroom-ready resource.
 

Top picks

A recent Washington Post report investigating the person behind Libs of TikTok — an anti-LGBTQ+ Twitter account that is highly influential among right-wing media — is prompting a debate over journalism ethics and anonymity online. Some have accused the Post of inappropriately “doxxing” the creator of the previously anonymous account and are criticizing the reporting tactics of journalist Taylor Lorenz, who knocked on doors as part of her story research. But, as Poynter’s Tom Jones points out, seeking subjects of news coverage to reach them for comment, including through door knocking, is “Journalism 101.” If Lorenz "didn’t exhaust all efforts to reach" the person behind the account, Jones notes, “you could say that would have been journalistically irresponsible.”
classroom-ready icon Dig deeper: Use this think sheet to further explore journalism ethics and anonymity online.
How did video of a nurse fainting become the fixation of a viral conspiracy theory? In Tiffany Dover is Dead*, part of a new NBC News podcast series, senior reporter Brandy Zadrozny traces how Dover’s experience fainting on camera after receiving her first COVID-19 shot in December 2020 soon spiraled into an online obsession, with many falsely claiming she had died. Zadrozny shines a light on the dangers of misinformation and shows how one person’s story was “hijacked by total strangers” to sow doubt about vaccine safety. (The first three episodes — Needle In, The Bog and Who Does That? — are now available.)
 

Viral rumor rundown

Viral meme significantly overstates rates of inflation

A Facebook post from Eric Trump that says, “Nothing more needs to be said…”. The post contains an image of text that says, “Inflation rate: 2017 Trump – 1.7%; 2018 Trump – 1.65%; 2019 Trump – 1.7%; 2020 Trump – 1.4%; 2021 Biden – 14%; 2022 Biden – 14.9%. The facts are clear.” The News Literacy Project has added a label that says “FALSE.”

NO: The inflation rates in this meme shared by Eric Trump are not accurate. YES: The meme slightly understates the actual rate of inflation for some of the Trump years listed and significantly overstates the rate of inflation for the two Biden years. YES: According to The Associated Press, many economists cite government spending, including President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, as one of the factors that has “caused inflation to run higher than it otherwise would.”

Figures published in a USA Today graphic show the accurate rates of inflation from 2017 through March 2022, calculated by both monthly averages and year-end rates.

NewsLit takeaway: Viral rumors about rising costs strike a quick emotional chord with many people, often resonating with real concerns about household finances. This meme might also “feel true” to many people because it contains a seed of truth: Inflation has rapidly increased over the past year. But it’s always a good idea to check out viral memes about complicated issues to get a fuller picture — especially those that explicitly discourage further inquiry (“Nothing more needs to be said” and “The facts are clear”).

 

No, a ‘Ukrainian beauty’ hasn’t blown up 52 Russian tanks

A tweet that says “This Ukrainian beauty blew up 52 invading Russian tanks.” The tweet includes a photo of a woman in a military uniform decorated with pins and medals. The News Literacy Project has added a label that says “FALSE.”

NO: The woman in this viral photo did not blow up 52 Russian tanks during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. YES: This photo also appears in this March 2021 article published on the Ukrainian military’s news website, which identifies the woman as Maj. Victoria Palamarchuk, a military doctor. YES: Fact-checkers at The Associated Press confirmed these details elsewhere online and contacted Palamarchuk’s mother, who said that the viral tank claim is a hoax.

NewsLit takeaway: Falsehoods touting alleged Ukrainian heroism have circulated online since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. While it’s impossible to know for sure where this particular falsehood originated, it’s important to be aware that people who use misinformation to “chase clout” and build influence online often target topics that invoke strong public opinions. Amid broad-based global support for Ukraine during this war, these types of hopeful, positive claims are optimized for quick likes and shares. However, they do not help or support Ukraine and may even bolster Russia’s attempts to cast a fog of doubt over all information about the war.

You can find this week's rumor examples to use with students in these slides.
Kickers
A new open letter signed by dozens of organizations representing journalists is calling on the Pulitzer Prizes — one of journalism’s most prestigious awards — to help “improve the diversity and transparency in the news industry” by requiring news organizations to participate in an annual diversity survey (or similar industry data collection) in order to qualify for an award.
Old videos showing military conflicts, parades and even airsoft battles continue to proliferate on TikTok, where they are passed off as footage of the war in Ukraine, often for clout or for donations on fake livestreams.
Less than six hours of classroom instruction can help students avoid the traps of misinformation and better evaluate online sources, according to a new study from researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Education.
In an effort to better understand conservatives’ distrust of the press, researchers conducted focus groups and interviews with 25 people who identified as conservatives and found that their anger toward mainstream journalism was rooted in “their deeper belief that the American press blames, shames, and ostracizes” them.
Can watching a different news network change what people believe? A new study on partisan media suggests the answer is “yes.” Researchers paid Fox News viewers to watch CNN instead and found that the switch impacted participants’ beliefs, attitudes and “overall political views”, though viewers returned to Fox once the study ended.
 

Thanks for reading!

Your weekly issue of The Sift is created by Peter Adams (@PeterD_Adams), Hannah Covington (@HannahCov) and Pamela Brunskill (@PamelaBrunskill), and edited by Mary Kane (@marykkane).

You’ll find teachable moments from our previous issues in the archives. Send your suggestions and success stories to thesift@newslit.org.

Sign up to receive NLP Connections (news about our work) or switch your subscription to the non-educator version of The Sift called Get Smart About News here.

 

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