Learn about news literacy this week News Goggles | Facebook whistleblower | Driving tax rumor
Note: Get Smart About News will not be published next week due to the federal holiday on Oct. 11. We’ll return on Tuesday, Oct. 19.
This week, NLP published the first News Goggles of the school year in a new video format. This resource is designed for educators to use in the classroom but offers everyone key insights on how to think like journalists while reading news coverage — so we decided to also include it here in Get Smart About News. 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.
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.”
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.
Note: Despite the removal of his channel, Mercola still appears (as of Oct. 4) in a number of videos (archived) on other YouTube channels. His books and other products also maintain a robust presence on Amazon.
Infrastructure plan does not include a per-mile driving tax
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).
Claims about a Canadian girl having a life-threatening vaccine reaction are 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.
Video of French police car being destroyed is from 2016, not 2021
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.
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.