Americans share widespread concerns about the spread of misinformation, with 91% of adults saying it’s a problem, according to a new poll. Across the political spectrum, Democrats (80%) and Republicans (70%) also agree that misinformation increases political extremism. Many Americans report taking steps to avoid misinformation or curb its spread, from deciding not to share content on social media to checking multiple sources or using fact-checking websites and tools.
Discuss: How does online misinformation increase political polarization? What gets your attention when it comes to online posts and news? Have you ever shared misinformation online, or noticed someone who did? How do you determine whether information online is legit? What steps can you take to avoid spreading misinformation?
Should newspapers endorse political candidates? As the midterms approach, the question of political endorsements by news outlets is sparking renewed debate in newsrooms, with some recently opting to stop endorsing major candidates. Journalists opposed to endorsements say that while there’s strict separation between news coverage and editorial boards, readers don’t always make a distinction between the two. Journalists in support of endorsements say they continue a longstanding tradition of sharp and informed opinion writing in service of the public.
Idea: Ask students to look at a print or digital newspaper and try to distinguish between news and opinion pieces. What’s the difference between the two sections? What labels or headlines do news outlets use to separate news and opinion?
Less than a week after Iranian journalist Niloofar Hamedi reported on the hospitalization and death of Mahsa Amini — a 22-year-old woman arrested by Iran’s morality police for improper dress — Hamedi herself was arrested and is reportedly in solitary confinement. Hamedi was one of dozens of journalists detained by Iranian police amid waves of protests over Amini’s death. Amini's family has accused police of beating her.
Idea: As a class, use NLP’s Newsroom to Classroom volunteer directory to connect with a journalist to discuss their experience with press freedoms.
NO: This is not an official list of rules for attending the 2022 World Cup. YES: Both FIFA, the international soccer governing body, and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, Qatar’s World Cup organizers, released statements confirming the list is fake. YES: This poster was spread by a Qatari citizen group that encourages tourists to abide by the country’s conservative customs. NO: This group is not in charge of making rules at the World Cup.
NewsLit takeaway: When in doubt, check the source.
Videos claiming that these were official rules set to be implemented at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar received hundreds of thousands of views in October 2022. Fact-checkers at Reuters confirmed this list of rules was posted by a Qatari citizen group that has no ties to FIFA. In fact, the graphic includes the group’s logo in the upper left corner.
The fake rules likely went viral because they “felt” true to those who think Qatar is a poor choice to host this global event due to the country’s conservative positions on homosexuality, alcohol and other items listed in this meme. Since the rules appeared to confirm those beliefs, many people shared the post. This is an example of confirmation bias.
Dig Deeper: Use this think sheet to explore RumorGuard and evaluate the credibility of this bogus claim about the 2022 World Cup.
NO: The frog in this video is not as large as it appears. YES: This video was created by a videographer who used digital editing to enlarge the appearance of the frog. YES: The frog in the video, the Australian White’s tree frog, only grows to 3 to 4.5 inches in length.
NewsLit takeaway: When you see something on the internet that seems unbelievable, check to see if it’s worth believing. This video purports to show an amazingly large tree frog. But even a quick search for other stories about this type of frog turns up facts that contradict the video. The White’s tree frog doesn’t grow to the size depicted in the video, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, and it lives on a diet of insects, not bananas. Also, zooming in on the frog as it eats the banana reveals editing glitches.
NO: The BBC did not stage, fake or fabricate its coverage of Ukrainian refugees fleeing from Irpin during heavy fire from the Russian military. YES: This is a genuine still image from a March 6 BBC news report. YES: In the full BBC video, viewers can hear explosions, see refugees fleeing as buildings burn and view images of civilian casualties.
NewsLit takeaway: A still image was taken from a 3-minute, 41-second BBC video from March 2022 and shared online with the false claim that the reporter was pretending to be on the frontlines to dramatize the conflict. This is a common tactic of propagandists who cherry-pick a single item, such as a photo or video still, and use it to misrepresent a larger issue while ignoring troves of contradictory evidence. Be wary of posts that use an individual image out of context to push a claim, in this case that the media fabricates stories about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
You can find this week's rumor examples to use with students in these slides.
A bogus viral narrative about schools supplying litter boxes for students who identify as animals has increasingly “taken on a life of its own” after being repeated by conservative commentators, influencers and politicians.
The country with the most resilience to disinformation? According to this media literacy index, it’s Finland, where students are taught how to decipher between misinformation and legitimate news.
After spreading conspiracy theories and lies for years about the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting, Alex Jones was ordered on Oct. 12 to pay nearly $1 billion to victims’ families. The recent verdict underscores the need to push back against “the industry of lucrative lying,” argues New York Times opinion columnist Zeynep Tufekci.