GSAN: Birth control misinfo | ‘Fake News Cleaner’

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April 2, 2024

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Birth control misinfo | ‘Fake News Cleaner’


Top picks

An illustration of six small social media posts surrounding a large social media post that says in Spanish, “Los medios no cubrirán esto,” which translates to “The media won’t cover this.”
“Los medios no cubrirán esto,” or “The media won’t cover this,” is a phrase that frequently accompanies political disinformation. Illustration credit: The News Literacy Project.
Top pick 1

Efforts are underway to help counter Spanish misinformation amid the expected onslaught of AI-generated misinformation ahead of this year’s presidential election, with Spanish-language fact-checking organizations partnering with news outlets.

Latinos are a key voting group in several battleground states, but they are, of course, not a monolith. Disinformation is sometimes microtargeted to specific populations. For example, a political ad in 2020 included disinformation about the Venezuelan government endorsing Joe Biden for president — a false narrative that preyed on Venezuelans fearful of socialism and dictatorships. Researchers say Spanish misinformation is less likely to be moderated on social media platforms than misinformation in English, and that YouTube and WhatsApp are the most-used platforms for Spanish speakers.

Top pick 2

Birth control misinformation is trending on social media as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs access to the abortion pill. Anecdotally, physicians say the number of patients citing birth control misinformation from TikTok and other online sources has accelerated in the last few years, Washington Post reporter Lauren Weber told CBS News. One false narrative that’s common to hear is that birth control affects long-term fertility. Falsehoods are sometimes spread by influencers peddling supplements or hormonal treatments or conservative commentators who link birth control with abortion, Weber said. When people engage with content on a particular topic, algorithms serve up similar videos, which can send social media users down a rabbit hole.

Top pick 3

Dramatic video footage of the fatal Baltimore bridge collapse was shown across news outlets and social media — but should it be taken down? During an interview with CNN on March 26, the day the bridge collapsed after a cargo ship lost control and crashed into it, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott requested the news outlet stop showing footage of the bridge collapse and said it was traumatizing for his community.

In the Poynter piece, media ethics expert Kelly McBride reviewed the video and noted that the accidental bridge collapse does not have the same level of traumatic impact as violent events like 9/11 or mass shootings do. “I don’t think using the video is particularly insensitive as long as the news coverage is advancing the story, by bringing in new perspectives and information,” she said.

RumorGuard Rundown


Baltimore bridge collapse sparks wide range of unfounded conspiracy theories

A collage of posts from X related to the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore in March 2024, including one from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones that says “Looks deliberate to me. A cyber-attack is probable. WW3 has already started”; another post that reads “Why on earth did Barack Obama produce a Netflix film about a catastrophic Cyber Attack?” and includes a scene from the movie of an oil tanker crashing
into a beach; another post that asks, “Did anti-white business practices cause this disaster?”; and a post that reads “The Baltimore Key Bridge was 100% intentional. I’ve made up my mind.” The News Literacy Project has added the label “CONSPIRATORIAL NONSENSE.”

NO: There is no evidence that the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge was the result of an intentional attack or caused by diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

NO: There’s also no evidence the collapse was a cyberattack foretold in Leave the World Behind, an apocalyptic Netflix film that lists as producers former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama through their Higher Ground Productions company.

YES: The Dali cargo ship lost power and issued an urgent mayday call just minutes before crashing into the bridge.

YES: Conspiracists continue to seize on breaking news to spread baseless rumors and theories.

NewsLit takeaway: Tragic events capture the attention of large numbers of people — and attention is a precious commodity in today’s information environment. That’s why a range of bad actors, from partisans to conspiracy theorists and trolls, seize on major breaking news events as opportunities to amplify their ideas to a large audience. No matter how quickly reporters at standards-based news outlets swing into action by talking to officials, witnesses and experts to gather verified information to relay to the public, conspiracy theorists move faster. The unfounded rumors can be appealing since they seem to provide answers to pressing questions, but they fall apart under scrutiny and fail to provide evidence.


False claims that Biden is secretly flying migrants to the U.S. to vote persist online

A collage of three posts on X. The first is from X founder Elon Musk and reads, “Treason indeed! Ushering in vast numbers of illegals is why
Mayorkas was impeached by the House. They are importing voters. This is why groups on the far left fight so hard to stop voter ID requirements, under the absurd guise of protecting the right to vote” and quotes a post from commentator Collin Rugg that reads, “REPORT: Joe Biden has secretly flown 320,000 illegal immigrants from Latin American airports to 43 U.S. cities. Treason.” Another post from conservative commentator Kyle Becker reads, “‘Make no mistake here, president Biden has been
flying hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens from foreign countries into Blue City airports’... NEW: ALL Senate Dems Vote Against Stopping Biden Administration’s Charter Flights for Illegal Aliens.” And another post from Musk reads, “This is insane” and quotes a post from Senator Bill Hagerty that reads, “Tonight every single Senate Democrat voted against my amendment that would stop Biden Admin from using taxpayer dollars to charter flights for hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens
from their countries directly to American towns to be resettled.” The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “MISLEADING CLAIMS.”

NO: The Biden administration is not secretly flying undocumented immigrants to the U.S.

YES: President Joe Biden in January 2023 expanded a migrant parole program to allow people from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to stay in the U.S. for two years.

YES: More than 357,000 migrants have legally entered the U.S. since the expansion of the program, which requires background checks and proof of a U.S. sponsor.

NO: The program does not provide a direct path to citizenship or allow people who enter the country under its terms to vote.

NewsLit takeaway: Complicated and controversial topics are frequently misrepresented online, as inflammatory rhetoric takes precedent over context and accuracy. In this case, a report from a think tank that favors lower immigration numbers raised transparency issues with a migrant parole program. But the report was misrepresented online and shared with misinterpretations and outright falsehoods. Former President Donald Trump elevated the claims in a Super Tuesday victory speech. These kinds of sensational posts can generate millions of views because they appeal to people’s preconceived biases, which is a good reminder of why partisan activists are often not reliable sources of information. Issues related to immigration are bound to be exaggerated, fabricated, underplayed and misrepresented by political partisans as the 2024 election approaches. 

A new Florida bill will ban social media accounts for children under 14, making it one of the most restrictive social media bans in the country — and some who anticipate a legal challenge say it creates barriers for young people looking for online information.
It turns out a Russian disinformation operation contributed to the frenzy behind Kate Middleton conspiracy theories. Researchers at Cardiff University in Wales found 45 social media accounts spreading false claims about the princess linked to the network.
A bizarre conspiracy theory is circulating on sites like X and YouTube: “transvestigation,” in which online sleuths aim to prove prominent people are secretly transgender.
A volunteer group in Taiwan called Fake News Cleaner meets with older adults in community spaces to teach them how to detect misinformation — with the aid of a fact-checking bot installed on their devices.
This 60 Minutes segment covers how prebunking, or “psychological inoculation,” helps people understand how misinformation works in order to identify and protect themselves from it.
Former Republican National Committee head Ronna McDaniel was hired and then quickly fired as a political commentator for NBC News. Journalists at the network objected to her hiring because she has repeated misinformation about the 2020 presidential election.
National and international stories in local newspapers often come from a news wire service, but we’ll likely see less of that now that two of the largest newspaper chains in the U.S. — Gannett and McClatchy — are ending use of The Associated Press.
Life Magazine is coming back to life! Investors purchased the publication rights to the magazine, which is set to resume regular print publication.
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Your weekly issue of Get Smart About News 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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