GSAN: News Goggles: AP fact-checking | Zombie newspapers | AI in journalism


Learn news literacy this week
News Goggles: AP fact-checking | Zombie newspapers | AI in journalism

News Goggles
Click on the image to play a video of Hannah Covington of the News Literacy Project talking with Karena Phan of The Associated Press over Zoom about Phan’s role debunking false claims and misinformation.

Standards-based news organizations care about getting the facts right. When false claims spread online, journalists and fact-checkers often step in to investigate and share their findings to help set the record straight.

This week, we talk to Karena Phan, a reporter for the news verification team at The Associated Press. Phan discusses the steps she takes to find and debunk misinformation trending online. We examine Phan’s recent fact check on a viral video falsely claiming to show the world’s tallest tree and explore how simple tools — such as a Google search or a reverse image search — can go a long way in separating fact from falsehood. Ready to fact-check like a pro? Grab your news goggles!

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

Resource: Infographic: “Eight tips to Google like a pro” (NLP’s Resource Library).


Top picks


As more Black newspapers are digitized in the Black Press Archives, a Howard University collection of over 2,000 publications published in the U.S. and abroad, some Black students are finding the collection useful for genealogical research. A student from Omaha, Nebraska, featured in this PBS story noted that the local newspaper didn’t print obituaries of Black people during his grandmother’s lifetime — but he was able to find her obituary in the archives of The Omaha Star, a Black newspaper he was digitizing.


Newsrooms are grappling with the implications of artificial intelligence technology along with the rest of the world. Some newsrooms are embracing the technology, like this magazine editor who has used AI language tools in his work for a decade and a German publisher who proclaimed ChatGPT a “revolution” in information. Meanwhile, others find it controversial, including one longtime photojournalist who views AI as a threat to the credibility of visual journalism.

Either way, generative AI is out of the box and here to stay — as the first syndicated AI-generated political cartoon illustrated.


What’s one way to establish trust between journalists and young people? Some would say TikTok. With a strong majority of 18- to 29-year-olds on the platform, an increasing number of legacy media outlets are using it to build relationships with younger adults — and add a dose of standards-based news to their feeds.

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Twitter isn’t removing Ukrainian flags from user profiles

A tweet reads, “You can’t be serious, @elonmusk? Now you’re censoring the [Ukrainian flag]? Has anyone else gotten this popup yet or is it only us?” and includes an image of an alleged statement from Twitter informing users that they must remove the Ukrainian flag from their profiles. The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “FABRICATED STATEMENT.”

NO: Twitter is not forcing people to remove the Ukrainian flag icon from their profiles. YES: The viral image of the alleged platform notification above is fabricated.

NewsLit takeaway: A false claim that Ukrainian flags were being removed from Twitter profiles under a new policy ushered in by Twitter owner Elon Musk likely spread because it “felt” true to people who have been critical of Musk’s comments on Russia and of his general management of Twitter. While confirmation bias may have caused some people to share this, others could have engaged with it for a different reason — psychological reactance, or an increased desire to obtain something they’ve been told they can’t have. Some may have even added the Ukrainian flag to their profiles in protest after being falsely told that it was no longer allowed.

Disinformation often targets natural human tendencies to manipulate people into performing certain actions or accepting certain beliefs. While it can be difficult to fight against these impulses, people can protect themselves by learning to recognize the tactics often used by propagandists, such as fake screenshots purporting to show official company statements.


No, Trump didn’t give expired ‘Trump Ice’ water to Ohio residents

Four tweets contain messages claiming that former U.S. President Donald Trump handed out expired bottles of “Trump Ice” water to the residents of East Palestine, Ohio, after the derailment of a freight train carrying hazardous materials, including one that reads “Trump dumps stash of 13 year old Trump Water on Palestine, Ohio.” The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “FALSE CLAIMS.”

NO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump did not donate expired bottles of his discontinued Trump Ice brand bottled water to the residents of East Palestine, Ohio, during a recent visit there. YES: Trump donated pallets of bottles labeled “Trump Natural Spring Water” to a water distribution site in East Palestine on Feb. 22. NO: A viral photo that appears to show yellow water inside “Trump Ice” bottles is not authentic.

NewsLit takeaway: Rumors that confirm preconceived beliefs are often accepted as fact without proper scrutiny. People who don’t like Trump might actually believe a post that says he handed out 13-year-old bottles of expired yellow water to a community dealing with the aftermath of a train derailment involving hazardous materials — if they don’t look into it further.

Confirmation bias is an especially significant problem on social media platforms because it makes it tempting and easy to amplify unverified claims. Remember, even content that “feels true” might not be — so not immediately sharing helps stop the spread of viral claims designed to exploit and mislead others.


False Zelenskyy ‘body double’ conspiracy spreads after Biden trip to Ukraine

Four tweets feature pictures and videos from U.S. President Joe Biden’s February 2023 trip to Ukraine and conspiratorial messages claiming that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was using a body double. One reads, “seems there’s a glitch in the Matrix”; another says Zelenskyy’s “body double walks with Biden who doesn’t even know the difference”; another claims the footage was “accidentally” aired on Polish TV; and the last accuses Zelenskyy of using drugs. The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “BASELESS SPECULATION.”

NO: This footage in these viral posts was not “accidentally” aired by Polish media, U.S. President Joe Biden was not speaking with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s body double and there was no “glitch in the matrix,” meaning an unusual or unexplained event, because there is no Zelenskyy body double. YES: The man in this video was identified as Zelenskyy’s bodyguard, Maksym Donets, who sometimes resembles Zelenskyy and is frequently photographed alongside him.

NewsLit takeaway: The purpose of many conspiracy theories isn’t to shed light on new findings, but simply to muddy the waters; they can offer up a barrage of speculative, evidence-free nonsense with the hope that something will stick. The point of these body double claims isn’t to convince viewers of anything specific, but to make them feel as if some intangible thing is “off” and to fuel the persistent conspiratorial narrative that the war in Ukraine is being staged. By learning the language of conspiracy theorists — in this case, “accidentally aired,” “glitch in the matrix” and “body double” — viewers can protect themselves from being dragged down conspiratorial rabbit holes.

How to get young people interested in quality news sources? With everything from TikTok videos of reporters talking about the news as they’re getting ready for work to midterm election explainers on Snapchat that include calming footage of a horse being groomed. This is how the News Movement, which launched about a year ago, is reaching young people on social media, where the company’s research found that 60% of Gen Z get news.
TikTok is full of useful “life hacks,” but it’s also full of fake experts — including those who encourage young women to shun some birth control methods in favor of less reliable “back to nature” methods.
Beware: After a newspaper dies, it can live on … as a digital zombie newspaper. Opportunistic companies are buying up the web domains of some shuttered newspapers and using them to post clickbait content, some of which is generated by AI.
There is still no consensus among U.S. government agencies on the origins of COVID-19, but a recent report that the U.S. Energy Department changed its outlook to lean toward the “lab leak” theory reignited the debate — and also caused conspiracy theory posts about the subject to soar online.
Since billionaire Elon Musk acquired Twitter last fall, engagement with “misinformation superspreader” accounts increased by 44%, according to Science Feedback. A slice of this engagement is due to the fact that Musk’s personal account repeatedly interacted with a handful of these accounts.
Although the video game industry is booming, news coverage of it is declining as video game reporters face layoffs.
The first journalist prosecuted under Turkey’s new disinformation law — which the Committee to Protect Journalists says hinders press freedoms — was sentenced to 10 months in prison.
ICYMI: In case you missed it, the most clicked link in the last issue of Get Smart About News was this Futurism article about layoffs at Sports Illustrated amid the publication's pivot to AI content.
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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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