The Sift: News Goggles returns | Facebook whistleblower | Driving tax rumor


Teach news literacy this week
News Goggles returns | Facebook whistleblower | Driving tax rumor

Note: The Sift will not be published on next Monday’s federal holiday (Oct. 11). We’ll return on Monday, Oct. 18.
classroom-ready icon Dig deeper: Don’t miss this week’s classroom-ready resource.
News Goggles Hannah Covington of the News Literacy Project talks with journalist Lionel Ramos of Oklahoma Watch over Zoom about his recent story on Afghan refugees arriving in Oklahoma. A hyperlinked play button over the image leads to a video of their conversation.

News Goggles is back — in a new video format for the classroom! This regular newsletter feature is designed to help your students learn to think like journalists while reading news coverage. How do journalists see news? Put on a pair of “news goggles” and check out these conversations with professional journalists to find out!

This week, we talk to Lionel Ramos, a Report for America corps member who covers race and equity for the investigative nonprofit Oklahoma Watch. Ramos offers news literacy insights for his recent story on Afghan refugees arriving in Oklahoma, and also sheds light on a key standard of quality journalism — sourcing.

Note: Look for this newsletter feature the first Monday of the month. You can find previous News Goggles annotations and activities in this guide, or in NLP’s Resource Library under “Classroom Activities.”

classroom-ready icon Dig deeper: Use this think sheet to guide students through the featured News Goggles video and article as they consider how journalists use credible sources in news reports.

Top picks

Frances Haugen publicly identified herself as the Facebook whistleblower in an Oct. 3 segment on 60 Minutes and reiterated that the company is aware of the harm its platforms cause around the world, but consistently “chooses profit over safety.” Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook, leaked internal documents that became the basis of the Wall Street Journal’s “The Facebook Files” investigative series. She is scheduled to testify before a Senate subcommittee about child safety on social media on Oct. 5.
  • Note: Facebook responded to the 60 Minutes report shortly after it aired, saying in a statement, “To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true.”
  • Discuss: Information “leaked” to the press has historically played an important role in watchdog journalism to hold the powerful accountable. Why is the watchdog role of the press important? How can ordinary people play a watchdog role? Why do you think CBS News, which produces 60 Minutes, also published Facebook’s response? What standard of quality journalism does this align with?
  • Resource: "Citizen Watchdogs" (NLP's Checkology® virtual classroom). 
  • Related: “Facebook’s Effort to Attract Preteens Goes Beyond Instagram Kids, Documents Show” (Georgia Wells and Jeff Horwitz, The Wall Street Journal).
Explore this harrowing first-person narrative (paywalled) and podcast about one journalist’s escape from Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban takeover and gain a deeper understanding of how press freedoms in the country are eroding. The USA Today piece includes illustrations, video and animated graphics with cellphone messages, maps and other details that help bring journalist Fatema Hosseini’s story to life.
  • Related: “New Taliban Guidelines Stir Fear About the Future of Press Freedom” (Carlotta Gall, The New York Times).
  • Idea: Have students watch this video (4:23) of Hosseini detailing her escape from Afghanistan. (Be advised: The video includes brief footage — around 1:50 — of gunshots fired near crowds.) Then lead a discussion about the dangers Hosseini faced. Ask students to consider why press freedoms are important, and why certain governments and groups like the Taliban might work to suppress those freedoms.
  • Resource: “Press Freedoms Around the World” (Checkology virtual classroom).
YouTube will remove any video that spreads misinformation about vaccines, according to a Sept. 29 statement. The move resulted in the removal of several channels belonging to influential anti-vaccine personalities — including Joseph Mercola, one of the biggest spreaders of misinformation about COVID-19, and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Viral rumor rundown

Infrastructure plan does not include a per-mile driving tax

A Facebook post that includes a photo of a graphic from a Newsmax broadcast that says, “BIDEN TAX INCREASES, DRIVING TAX” and contains three bullets outlining a “per-mile user fee” that is “estimated to be 8 cents per mile” but varies “depending on vehicles.” The person who posted the photo to Facebook wrote in the post: “This will be in addition to the already in place fuel tax. 12,000 miles X $.08 = $960, 15,000 miles X $.08 = $1,200.” The News Literacy Project added a label that says “FALSE.”

NO: The $1 trillion infrastructure bill before Congress does not include a per-mile driving tax. YES: It proposes a volunteer pilot program to evaluate the viability of a per-mile driving tax — a possible replacement for the current gasoline tax. NO: This is not a new idea. YES: States have also been piloting similar programs to replace gas taxes to adjust for the growing number of electric vehicles.

NewsLit takeaway: Photos of text and graphics generally make it difficult to verify claims and should always be approached with skepticism. In this case, the photo shows one on-air graphic from a Newsmax broadcast but provides no link to the full segment or, more importantly, to the legislation itself. It is not clear what the openly partisan Newsmax network reported about the infrastructure bill during this particular broadcast, but other Newsmax reports have made it clear that “the pilot itself does not institute a tax” (archived).

Related: “Fact Check: Infrastructure Bill Does NOT Include '$6,500 Tax On Dairy Cows, $2,600 Per Head On Beef...$500...On Swine'” (Alexis Tereszcuk, Lead Stories).


Claims about a Canadian girl having a life-threatening vaccine reaction are false

An Instagram post that includes a video of an unnamed woman telling a story. The text of the post says, “Wow this is a call to #WakeUp #America I’m certain you know something just ain’t adding up.  I almost cried just listening to this women... Literally there are no words but seek ye first the kingdom of #God snd his righteousness!! Believe in the Gospel of #JesusChrist and get on board before the doors shut !!! I urge you!!  #Jesus #Lord #God #Love #Christian #Faith #Gospel #Faithful #Music #Atlanta #1 #Life #Live #Faith #Church #Iam #Gospel #Child #Children #Blessed #Bless #Faith #Rapture #Unity #Prayer #Help #PraiseGod #Glory #IAM @lufearsnoman.” The News Literacy Project added a label that says “FALSE.”

NO: A 13-year-old girl in Halifax, Nova Scotia, did not have a serious cardiac emergency after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. YES: An unnamed woman posted a video to Facebook claiming that her daughter’s friend had this kind of reaction. YES: The woman made other demonstrably false claims about vaccines in the same video. NO: Emergency health authorities in Nova Scotia have no record of such an incident.

NewsLit takeaway: Misinformation often provokes strong emotional reactions that can override our rational sensibilities. If you have a strong emotional reaction to something you see online — particularly if it involves evidence-free claims about an important topic such as vaccines or other health-related concerns — take some extra time to check it out before reacting to it. This example also highlights the challenging, cross-platform nature of misinformation: Though this video was removed by Facebook, where it was originally posted, it continued to circulate on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, where it was reposted.

Related: “Misinformation leads to animosity toward health care workers” (Rebecca Boone, The Associated Press).


Video of French police car being destroyed is from 2016, not 2021

A tweet that includes a video showing people hitting and setting fire to a police car in France. The text in the post says, “Paris protestors are attacking police, smashing their car, hitting them, and even trying to set the car on fire by throwing firecrackers. There is massive civil unrest happening right now in France.” The News Literacy Project added a label that says “OLD FOOTAGE FROM 2016.”

NO: The video in this tweet does not show civil unrest in France in September 2021. YES: It is footage of protesters attacking and destroying a police car in Paris in May 2016 during a demonstration against labor reform and police violence. YES: Protesters have been demonstrating against France’s COVID-19 “health pass” requirements for more than two months following their introduction in July. YES: Health pass protesters have clashed (Warning: Video clips contain images and sounds that some people may find disturbing) with police and opposition groups, including in recent weeks.

NewsLit takeaway: Videos and photos of protests are commonly presented out of context online, often to try to bolster or minimize a more recent but unrelated demonstration or cause. Be wary of such visuals, especially when shared by accounts with no standards for verification or accuracy. A quick reverse image search — using a still from the video or a video search tool like the InVid Verification Plugin — can help you find the source of videos you’re not sure about.

Related: “Graphic photos do not show Melbourne protesters wounded by rubber bullets” (Taylor Thompson Fuller, AFP Fact Check).

Discuss: Why do you think dramatic videos like these often deceive people and go viral out of context? Why would someone want to exaggerate or sensationalize the health pass protests in France?

You can find this week's rumor examples to use with students in these slides.
NLP's FREE News Literacy Educator Network. Join NewsLit Nation.
Kickers: Journalism slang. The ending of a story or nes report, often intended to leave a lasting impression.

What Black women journalists bring to voting rights coverage. A helpful Twitter thread on a new study examining Americans’ views of journalism, which found that “participants were quick to perceive bias, and often saw context in a story as an indicator of reporter bias.” And no, Dolly Parton isn’t on TikTok. (Maybe someday!)

Elsewhere: Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones — who repeatedly pushed the absurd claim that the Sandy Hook school shooting was staged — recently lost three separate lawsuits related to his false claims. And there are still dozens of Facebook groups dedicated to pushing ivermectin — and advising members how to get it and how to evade Facebook’s content moderation.


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 [email protected].

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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.