GSAN: Phony Gaza videos | Fuel fakes | ‘Honeypot’ Facebook groups


Learn about news literacy this week
Phony Gaza videos | Fuel fakes | 'Honeypot' Facebook groups

Note: Next week will be this school year's final issue of the Get Smart About News newsletter. During the summer, we will deliver it to you in a different format. Please help us understand more about how you use GSAN by taking our reader survey here.

Viral rumor rundown


NO: The woman in the background in this video of a vaccination clinic in Mexico did not die after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. YES: She fainted.

Tip: Be wary of posts that seek to connect isolated incidents with COVID-19 vaccines. Anti-vaccination activists continue to use coincidental events, including celebrity deaths, and misleading or out-of-context videos to spread fear and falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines.



NO: The video in this tweet does not show Hamas militants firing rockets from populated areas in the Gaza Strip in May 2021. YES: This video has been online since at least June 2018 and was claimed to be related to the conflict in Syria. YES: The above tweet was posted by Ofir Gendelman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesperson. YES: It has since been deleted.

Note: This video was also used out of context in a December 2019 tweet that claimed it was footage from Tripoli, Libya.

Tip: Photos and videos of rockets being fired, particularly at night, are easy to pass off out of context.


NO: This TikTok video does not show a barrage of rockets being fired at or from Gaza in May 2021. YES: This video appears to show a test of a multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) and has been online since at least November 2018.

Note: This clip also went viral out of context in January 2020 after Iran fired ballistic missiles at military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq.

Related: “As violence in Israel and Gaza plays out on social media, activists raise concerns about tech companies’ interference” (Antonia Noori Farzan, The Washington Post).


NO: The U.S. Census Bureau did not confirm any conflicts or problems related to the number of voters in the 2020 presidential election. NO: Census figures do not show that there was “a discrepancy of nearly four million votes” in the election. YES: The total number of votes in the 2020 election exceeded the number of people who reported to the Census Bureau that they had voted. YES: More than 36 million people age 18 and older did not tell the Census Bureau whether or not they voted in the election. YES: Researchers previously have found mismatches between people who say they voted and their actual voting record.

Related: “‘A Perpetual Motion Machine’: How Disinformation Drives Voting Laws” (Maggie Astor, The New York Times).

Misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines is contributing to a hesitancy among some people to get vaccinated. All week, NLP will explore why some are hesitant to get a vaccine with updated website resources, social media posts and a special episode of our podcast Is that a fact? We’ll get insight from Brandy Zadrozny, a senior reporter for NBC News who covers misinformation, extremism and the internet; and Dr. Erica Pan, California state epidemiologist and deputy director for the Center for Infectious Diseases at the California Department of Public Health.

★ NewsLit Picks


“The volunteers using 'honeypot' groups to fight anti-vax propaganda” (BBC Trending).

Ordinary Facebook users are combating vaccine and COVID-19 misinformation by creating decoy “honeypot” groups that first attract, and then challenge, those who believe in vaccine-related conspiracy theories. The groups — which have amassed thousands of members — initially appear to promote vaccine falsehoods. People who join the groups are permitted to post false claims and misleading information before moderators then step in to fact-check and challenge vaccine myths through comments and private messages. Sometimes it works: “They sort of swung me round,” one person told the BBC, “by sending me actual factual information.”

Note: This BBC report from Marianna Spring also touches on “moderation challenges” posed by decoy groups battling vaccine myths. Moderators say they aim to debunk falsehoods, but by allowing posts that contain misinformation, this type of Facebook group “technically breaches the company's rules.”



Quick Picks

“‘Horrified’: AP, Al Jazeera condemn Israel's bombing of their offices in Gaza” (Oriana Gonzalez, Axios).


“How AAJA helped shape coverage of the Atlanta shootings” (Kristen Hare, Poynter).


“The new CNN is more opinionated and emotional. Can it still be ‘the most trusted name in news’?” (Jeremy Barr, The Washington Post).

Thanks for reading!

Your weekly issue of Get Smart About News is created by Peter Adams (@PeterD_Adams), Suzannah Gonzales and Hannah Covington (@HannahCov) of the News Literacy Project. It is edited by NLP’s Mary Kane (@marykkane).

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Check out NLP's Checkology virtual classroom, where students learn how to navigate today’s information landscape by developing news literacy skills.