Press freedoms are under threat worldwide, with most countries in a “problematic,” “difficult” or “very serious situation.” (Image credit: Reporters Without Borders)
Journalists around the world face a press environment that is either very serious, difficult or problematic in 128 out of 180 countries, according to Reporters Without Borders findings published on May 3 — World Press Freedom Day. Reporting conditions are “satisfactory” in only three out of 10 countries, RSF said.
The 2023 World Press Freedom Index spotlighted the effects and growth of the “fake content industry,” or massive disinformation and propaganda campaigns aided by increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence tools. RSF noted that blurred lines between facts and falsehoods ultimately weaken journalism. RSF also pointed to Twitter owner Elon Musk’s “arbitrary” decisions and payment-based approach as examples of how “platforms are quicksand for journalism.”
Norway (1), Ireland (2) and Denmark (3) claimed the top three spots in the ranking, while Vietnam (178), China (179) and North Korea (180) ranked at the bottom of the index for press freedom. The U.S. (45) dropped three spots, which RSF attributed to a variety of factors, including economic difficulties for news media and the murders of Nevada investigative journalist Jeff German and Florida television reporter Dylan Lyons.
Idea: Ask students to make informed guesses about which countries they think would rank in the top five and bottom five for press freedom. Explore the World Press Freedom Index as a class and compare students’ rankings with the index. Which countries surprised them? How would students define freedom of the press?
Dig deeper: Use this think sheet to evaluate the effects of fake content, propaganda and other issues on press freedoms worldwide.
Artificial intelligence software is being used to generate news websites with unreliable and low-quality content, including sites that amplify false narratives, a NewsGuard analysis found. NewsGuard identified 49 AI-generated news websites in seven languages last month. Many of the articles on these websites aren’t credited to real people, but instead have a generic byline like “Admin” or first names with inauthentic profile pictures. Some articles and headlines even included phrases that appeared to be from generative AI tools in response to prompts, such as, “I am not capable of producing 1500 words” or “I cannot complete this prompt.” AI tools appear to produce false information in some of the sites, including one that incorrectly reported President Joe Biden’s death — followed by a chatbot disclaimer against generating misleading content.
Discuss: Have you come across an AI-generated news website online before? How can you tell? What are some clues NewsGuard researchers used to identify these websites? How are these websites different from legitimate news websites?
The more young people use TikTok, the more open they are to pseudoscience, according to survey results in a new Reboot Foundation report. Nearly 40% of survey respondents ages 13 to 24 who used TikTok for more than an hour a day said they believed in numerology (the supernatural significance of numbers), and 17% of teen users ages 13 to 17 “couldn’t say definitively that the Earth is round.”
Trust in science also was low among the teen users, with 42% disagreeing with the statement, “Science helps the world more than it harms it.”
Idea: As a class, search for videos on TikTok related to science, such as climate change or health topics. What are the first recommended videos that come up? What kind of claims do they make? How can students tell if a TikTok video or account is credible? Who posted it, and why?
Discuss: What might lead someone to believe that science doesn't help the world more than it harms it? How can you know if science-based claims are worthy of acceptance? What makes people doubt or resist science?
NO: This is not an authentic photo of filmmaker Stanley Kubrick “directing” a staged moon landing. YES: It is an AI-generated image that was originally published to a Facebook group called “AI Art Universe” in July 2022. YES: The image recently went viral among flat-Earth conspiracy believers after far-right conspiracy theorist Stew Peters posted it to Twitter on April 30, garnering more than 1.6 million views.
NewsLit takeaway: Incomprehensible events sometimes lead people to embrace simpler, false explanations. And although it has been nearly 54 years since Apollo 11 landed on the moon, conspiratorial beliefs that the event was staged have proven shockingly resilient. One explanation some moon-landing deniers embrace is that the U.S. government hired Kubrick to stage the landing to embarrass the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Why? Possibly because the moon landing happened in 1969, the year after Kubrick directed 2001: A Space Odyssey with a scene on the moon’s surface that amazed audiences.
This strand of belief among flat-Earth followers and others who claim the moon landing was staged persists today — and when “evidence” emerges online that seems to support this absurd idea, it is readily embraced by those who find the fiction of a conspiracy easier and more empowering to believe than the still-amazing truth.
The gruesome images of victims of a May 6 mass shooting at a Texas mall that went viral on Twitter sparked renewed debate among journalists and researchers about how graphic images should be moderated on social media platforms.
NPR’s listeners are overwhelmingly white (76%), as is NPR’s on-air “voice,” which is predominantly white and male. Now, as the news organization aims to diversify staff and audience, four NPR hosts who are women of color share their experiences and discuss why representation matters in journalism.
Survival instincts are part of the Black experience in America, and those instincts are also how the Black press is finding ways to stay afloat amid the news industry's financial crisis, according to four Black publishers.
An Arizona official from Maricopa County was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after years of death threats and harassment from election deniers. Now he's speaking out about his treatment and encouraging other officials who have experienced the same.
Nearly three-quarters of American adults believe “news media is increasing political polarization in this country,” a new survey found. Republicans were more likely to say news media is hurting democracy (61%) compared to Democrats (23%) and independents (36%).