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COMMENTARY: How comics can teach media literacy and help identify fake news – Global News

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At this point, most of us know the drill when it comes to COVID-19: proper hand hygiene, mask wearing and social distancing.

But does setting fire to cell towers make your list? Probably not. A conspiracy theory linking 5G mobile technology to the COVID-19 outbreak has ignited fears worldwide, prompting just this response from a few individuals in Québec, who set ablaze seven mobile towers.

READ MORE: Trump duped by fake news story of Twitter going down to protect Biden

Although such destructive responses are rare, thousands of digital consumers have absorbed aspects of this falsehood, pushing fringe beliefs into the mainstream despite refutations from the World Health Organization and multiple agencies in Canada and the United States. What started as a conspiracy turned into a real crisis for the people who immediately believed what they’d heard.

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My research focuses on critical media studies and ideological representations in news and popular culture. I regularly offer workshops to schools and community groups that engage the public in contemporary media literacy issues. My book, Won’t Get Fooled Again: A Graphic Guide To Fake News, helps readers identify the underlying purpose of the messages they receive and learn how to do basic research before accepting the validity of what’s being presented to them.


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New study suggests social media feeds source of COVID-19 fake news


New study suggests social media feeds source of COVID-19 fake news

Dealing with fake news

Fake news is an increasingly pressing problem. In fact, a 2019 poll found 90 per cent of Canadians reported falling for false information online.

As consumers, we need to learn how to filter content and become our own educators, editors and fact-checkers to ensure the information we act upon is trustworthy. In a constantly changing informational and political environment, it’s no wonder we often struggle to separate fact from fiction.

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Research indicates people create misinformation for two primary reasons: money and ideology.

Articles, videos and other forms of content can generate large amounts of money for the websites that host these pieces. Most of their income comes from clicks on advertisements, so the more people who visit their sites, the better chances they have of boosting ad revenue. This feedback loop has led many publishers to lean on false information to drive traffic.

The threshold for making believable fake news has fallen as well. A conspiracy theorist, for example, can create a web page using a professional template with high-quality photos in just a few clicks. Once the content has been added, sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms requires even less effort.

These misinformation and fake-news campaigns amplify and circulate through false digital accounts using automated programs known as bots that use certain keywords to influence and impact conversations among like-minded clusters of people. The results can foment discord on hot-button Canadian policy issues — like immigration and refugees — possibly disrupting election outcomes.

A page with six comic book panels showing an exchange about news.
Focus groups with students informed the content for ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again,’ a graphic narrative teaching media literacy.
(Alan Spinney), Author provided

Generating anxiety and undermining truth

Canadians are expressing anxiety about the social impact of fake news, with 70 per cent fearing it could affect the outcome of a federal election. The Pew Research Center warns that fake news may even influence the core functions of the democratic system and contribute to “truth decay.”

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Dubious and inflammatory content can undermine the quality of public debate, promote misconceptions, foster greater hostility toward political opponents and corrode trust in government and journalism.

The effects of misinformation have been evident throughout the COVID-19 epidemic, with many citizens confused as to whether a mask will decrease the chances of spreading the infection. Similar tactics are being levelled against Black Lives Matter protesters, such as labelling them all as rioters when videos and photos show most behaving peacefully.

Conspiracy theories about the “Chinese virus,” amplified by politicians in Canada and the U.S., have fanned the flames of anti-Asian sentiments following the spread of COVID-19. Data from law enforcement and Chinese-Canadian groups has shown an increase in anti-Asian hate incidents in Canada since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ MORE: How to teach kids to hunt out fake news? With dinosaurs, of course

Who and how to trust

Aside from a few social media platforms that identify misleading content and provide a brief explanation, most information online or in print can appear factual. So how can we figure out which sources to trust?

As a sociologist who focuses on critical media studies, I formed focus groups and collected input from my students to create a resources to guide readers through identifying fake news. While regulation and legislation are part of the solution, experts agree we must take swift action to teach students how to seek verification before acting on fake news.

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In my findings, students identified several reasons why media outlets post or re-publish fake news, including making mistakes, being short-staffed, not fact-checking and actively seeking greater viewership by posting fake news.

The students pointed to holistic media literacy and critical thinking training as the best responses. This finding runs counter to the tactics currently used by publishers and tech companies to label or “fact-check” disputed news.

One student summarized this mindset best: “As citizens and consumers, we have a responsibility to be critical. Don’t accept stories blindly. Hold those in power responsible for their actions!”

Getting multiple perspectives is a great way to expand our digest of viewpoints. Once we can see a story from more than one angle, separating truth from falsehood becomes much simpler.

At this point, I transitioned from recording perceptions of fake news to determining how to identify it. Providing students with information about the nature and agendas of fake news, in an immersive format, seemed to be a key step in engaging and cultivating their critical literacy capabilities. Information delivery was a key consideration.

A page with six comic book panels showing an exchange about news.
Graphic narratives can help communicate complex and multiple ideas at the same time, such as research skills.
(Alan Spinney), Author provided

Illustrating the narratives

Researchers have shown graphic narratives can accelerate cognition by focusing the reader’s attention on crucial information. Images clarify complex content, especially for visual learners. Comic books require readers to create meaning using multiple factors that helps develop a complex, multi-modal literacy.

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A major goal of my book involves unpacking the motivations behind the news we consume. Consider why a particular person was interviewed: Who do they represent? What do they want us to believe? Is another point of view missing?

Won’t Get Fooled Again: A Graphic Guide to Fake News is the culmination of my research and the insights drawn from media literacy scholarship. This guide helps readers understand what fake news is, where it comes from, and how to check its accuracy.

If there’s one habit my students and I hope everyone will develop, it’s this: pause before sharing news on social media. Double-check anything that immediately sparks anger or frustration and, remember, fake news creators want a reaction, not thoughtful reflection.The Conversation

Erin Steuter, professor of sociology, Mount Allison University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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Bill Barr bashed in right-wing media after election fraud comments: 'He is either a liar or a fool or both' – CNN

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Since he was confirmed as attorney general, William Barr has been somewhat of a hero in the right-wing media universe. He has assailed the Russia probe. He has talked a big game about cracking down on Antifa. He has sharply criticized the news media. On and on it goes.
But his celebrity status took a hit on Tuesday when he undercut President Trump’s brazenly false contention that there was massive voter fraud in the 2020 election. Speaking to the Associated Press, Barr said that, “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
The statement from Barr, which merely recited a simple fact, not only cut against what Trump has been saying, but also what Trump’s propagandists and allies in right-wing media have been feeding their audiences. For weeks, these media personalities have strung their audiences along, suggesting that damning proof of fraud was just around the corner. Which is why the comment from Barr stung so bad.
The comment effectively forced these right-wing stars to pick between acknowledging the reality Barr laid out or continuing Trump’s fantasy. Trump’s most devoted propagandists chose the latter. And so they started to throw Barr under the bus, just as they’ve done with every other conservative who has dared to contradict the president. (Think about how former conservative stars such as Jeff Sessions, Justin Amash, Paul Ryan, and others were treated when they didn’t blindly oblige Trump’s demands.)

“A liar or a fool or both”

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, whose conspiratorial program is a favorite of the president, attacked Barr in brutal terms on his show. “For the attorney general of the United States to make that statement — he is either a liar or a fool or both,” Dobbs said. Dobbs then went further, suggesting Barr was “perhaps compromised.” He characterized Barr as having “appeared to join in with the radical Dems and the deep-state and the resistance.”
Dobbs wasn’t the only one. Newsmax host Greg Kelly, who has risen to fame in right-wing media circles in the last few weeks for suggesting Trump could emerge as the winner of the election, went after Barr on his show. “Some of us are wondering if he is a warrior with the Constitution or if he’s just a bureaucrat,” Kelly said. Kelly added that he “can’t believe” if Barr “looked for voter fraud he wouldn’t find any.” And Mark Levin said he “regret[ted] to say” that Barr’s comments were “misleading.”
The far-right blogs were even harsher. The Gateway Pundit, a fringe website which Trump has repeatedly promoted, published a post that said Barr had revealed himself as “totally deaf, dumb and blind.” The post went on to say that Barr’s “masquerade as someone opposed to the criminality of the Deep State” had been “exposed as a venal lie” and that he was a “fraud.” It concluded, “You either fix the damn corrupt system or we will abandon you…Our days of tolerating betrayal are over.”

Some hold fire

While Barr faced strong criticism from some notable names in right-wing media, others refrained from attacking him on Tuesday night. Notably, heavyweights Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity didn’t skewer the AG. It will be interesting over the next 24 hours if this anti-Barr narrative takes greater hold in the Trump-friendly media, or if it dissipates.

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Trump threatens defence veto over social media protections – BarrieToday

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is threatening to veto a defence policy bill unless it ends protections for internet companies that shield them from being held liable for material posted by their users.

On Twitter Tuesday night, Trump took aim at Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects companies that can host trillions of messages from being sued into oblivion by anyone who feels wronged by something someone else has posted — whether their complaint is legitimate or not.

Trump called Section 230 “a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity,” adding, “Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill.”

Trump has been waging war against social media companies for months, claiming they are biased against conservative voices.

In October he signed an executive order directing executive branch agencies to ask independent rule-making agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, to study whether they can place new regulations on the companies.

Since losing the presidential election, Trump has flooded social media with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. Twitter has tagged many such Trump tweets with the advisory, “This claim about election fraud is disputed.”

Tuesday’s veto threat is another potential roadblock for the passage of the annual defence policy measure, which is already being held up in Congress by a spat over military bases named for Confederate officers. The measure, which has passed for 59 years in a row on a bipartisan basis, guides Pentagon policy and cements decisions about troop levels, new weapons systems and military readiness, military personnel policy and other military goals.

The Associated Press

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Trump threatens defence veto over social media protections – CTV News

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WASHINGTON —
U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening to veto a defence policy bill unless it ends protections for internet companies that shield them from being held liable for material posted by their users.

On Twitter Tuesday night, Trump took aim at Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects companies that can host trillions of messages from being sued into oblivion by anyone who feels wronged by something someone else has posted — whether their complaint is legitimate or not.

Trump called Section 230 “a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity,” adding, “Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill.”

Trump has been waging war against social media companies for months, claiming they are biased against conservative voices.

In October he signed an executive order directing executive branch agencies to ask independent rule-making agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, to study whether they can place new regulations on the companies.

Since losing the presidential election, Trump has flooded social media with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. Twitter has tagged many such Trump tweets with the advisory, “This claim about election fraud is disputed.”

Tuesday’s veto threat is another potential roadblock for the passage of the annual defence policy measure, which is already being held up in Congress by a spat over military bases named for Confederate officers. The measure, which has passed for 59 years in a row on a bipartisan basis, guides Pentagon policy and cements decisions about troop levels, new weapons systems and military readiness, military personnel policy and other military goals.

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