Here’s the first fall 2022 installment of a weekly feature I’ve been running for several years: lessons from the nonprofit News Literacy Project (NLP), which aims to teach students and the public how to sort fact from fiction in our digital and contentious age. There has never been a time in recent U.S. history when this skill has been as important, because of the spread of rumors and conspiracy theories on social and partisan media sites.
NLP was founded more than a decade ago by Alan Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter at the Los Angeles Times, and it has become the leading provider of news literacy education in the country. You can learn more about the organization and its resources and programs here.
The material in this post comes from The Sift, the organization’s newsletter for educators, which has nearly 22,000 subscribers. Published weekly during the school year, it explores timely examples of misinformation, addresses media and press freedom topics, explores social media trends and issues, and includes discussion prompts and activities for the classroom. Get Smart About News, modeled on The Sift, is a free weekly newsletter for the public.
NLP has an e-learning platform, Checkology, that helps educators teach middle and high school students how to identify credible information, seek out reliable sources, and know what to trust, what to dismiss and what to debunk.
It also gives them an appreciation of the importance of the First Amendment and a free press. Checkology, and all of the NLP’s resources and programs, are free. Since 2016, more than 42,000 educators and 375,000 students in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and more than 120 other countries have registered to use the platform.
Here’s material from the May 19 edition of The Sift:
Dig deeper: Don’t miss this week’s classroom-ready resource.
1. About 1 in 5 videos automatically suggested on TikTok contain misinformation, according to a new report from NewsGuard. Search results on pressing and consequential topics — including vaccines, abortion, climate change, school shootings, the 2020 election, the Jan. 6 insurrection and the war in Ukraine — are littered with misleading videos on the popular social media platform, NewsGuard researchers said. TikTok is one of the most popular domains in the world, especially among young people.
NewsGuard analyzed 540 TikTok search results, out of which they found 105 videos “contained false or misleading claims.” They also found that when users entered neutral phrases, like “climate change,” the platform suggested searches for false statements like “climate change doesn’t exist.”
• Discuss: Do you use TikTok? If yes, what kind of videos do you watch on the platform? How often do you see TikTok videos about current issues and events? How can you tell whether a video is factual or not? Have you ever reported a video for misinformation on TikTok? Do you think strategies like user reports and AI technology are effective at filtering misinformation on social media?
• Idea: In small groups, have students search a trending news topic on TikTok. Ask them to record the searches TikTok suggests as they type in their topic. Next, ask students to view the top five videos in their results and evaluate the credibility of each: Is the video factually accurate? Inaccurate? Are they unsure? Finally, have student groups discuss their observations and share ideas about how to verify TikTok content.
• Resource: “Introduction to Algorithms” (NLP’s Checkology virtual classroom).
◦ “For Gen Z, TikTok Is the New Search Engine” (Kalley Huang, the New York Times).
◦ “Teens Now Turn to TikTok More Than Google — but Not for Schoolwork” (Nadia Tamez-Robledo, EdSurge).
◦ “Lawmakers Grill TikTok Executive About Ties to China” (David McCabe, the New York Times).
Dig Deeper: Use this think sheet to explore how TikTok’s search results yield misleading information.
2. It’s been 130 years since a formerly enslaved man borrowed $200 to launch the Afro-American newspaper in Baltimore. Commonly referred to as the Afro, the award-winning paper recently marked its anniversary and describes itself as a source of “good news about the Black community not otherwise found.”
• Idea: Have students examine the news coverage featured on Afro.com. What kind of stories do they see? How might those stories be of interest to the news publication’s audience? What distinguishes this outlet’s coverage from more mainstream news sources?
• Another idea: Ask students to use this map to explore media outlets across the United States that primarily serve Black communities.
Viral rumor rundown
NO: The screenshot in this tweet is not a genuine article published by CNN.
YES: This is a piece of impostor content designed to look like a CNN article.
NO: Climate and weather are not the same thing.
YES: Global warming and climate change can cause severe winter weather.
NewsLit takeaway: Impostor content is often designed to launder faulty ideas through a credible source. Using a fabricated CNN headline to push this falsehood accomplishes two things: It lends credibility to a demonstrably false claim for those who are inclined to believe it, and it impugns CNN’s reputation and credibility for those who aren’t. Remember, while weather changes from one season to the next, the impacts of climate change can be felt throughout the year. Conflating weather with climate is a common strategy used to minimize the magnitude of climate change. Recognizing this distinction makes us all less susceptible to climate change misinformation.
NO: This is not a genuine message from Trump about being knighted in private by the queen.
NO: This message was never posted to Trump’s account on Truth Social, the former president’s social media platform.
YES: This is a fabricated Truth Social post that went viral on Twitter.
NewsLit takeaway: Be skeptical of alleged social media messages that only circulate in image form as screenshots. A plethora of online tools make fabricating images of social media messages rather easy. While these doctored pieces of impostor content can appear convincing, one big red flag gives these messages away as fakes: They do not have URLs connected to the social media profile of the subject (in this case Trump), and many of these alleged posts have the same number of likes and shares. We’ve covered similar pieces of impostor content, and you can get a rundown on how to investigate this type of rumor here.
• As student journalists have become more vocal about the threats and intimidation they face, new research underscores the importance of preparing journalism students to cope with on-the-job harassment.
• This is the first school year that media literacy is required in Illinois high schools, and it can be taught in any subject, even in physical education class.
U of G Research Links Social Media to Body Dissatisfaction Among New Moms – University of Guelph News
Social media is filled with plenty of before-and-after pictures of mothers who have “shed the baby weight” and gotten fit. The posts are meant to inspire, but new University of Guelph research finds they often do just the opposite.
The study from researchers in the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences (CSAHS) finds many mothers develop poor attitudes about eating and become discouraged about their body after viewing so-called “fitspiration” images. What’s more, those negative attitudes last longer than they should.
Recently published in the journal BMC Pregnancy Childbirth, the study is thought to be the first to investigate how social media impacts postpartum mothers’ body image. The researchers hope their findings will spark conversations and help health-care providers guide prenatal and postpartum mothers on using social media in a healthy way.
Dr. Lisa Tang, who led the research as a doctoral student in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition (FRAN), began the study after working as a dietitian in a community clinic. She noticed a growing number of new and expectant mothers talking about the need to lose weight.
“Mothers were sharing their feelings around the pressure to return to their pre-pregnancy weight as quickly as possible and feeling the pressure of unreasonable expectations as they were comparing themselves to other mothers on social media,” she said.
Most mothers use social media but little known of effects
Dr. Jess Haines, a FRAN researcher who supervised and contributed to the study along with Dr. Marika Tiggemann of Flinders University in Australia, says while previous research has examined how media such as TV and magazines affect postpartum mothers’ attitudes about their bodies, none had looked at the effect of social media.
“We know that nearly 90 per cent of mothers regularly use social media but there’s been limited research on how the messages and images new mothers see affect their body image and eating behaviours, which is why this study is important,” she said.
The research team involved 132 postpartum mothers of infants under six months of age. Half viewed several dozen social media posts that were body-focused, while the other half looked at posts that offered infant feeding tips.
Compared to the control group looking at feeding tips, the moms who looked at body-focused posts reported higher levels of inspiration to be active but also higher levels of body dissatisfaction, poorer body image, poorer eating attitudes and higher levels of behaviours suggesting they were restraining their eating.
These bad feelings about eating lingered with the mothers.
When the researchers surveyed them again one month later, the moms who had viewed the body-focused images still reported poorer eating attitudes and more restrained eating behaviour than the other mothers — a finding that surprised Tang.
“This points to the possibility that viewing body image content on social media may have a more robust impact on eating behaviours compared to feelings of inspiration to be active,” she said.
That’s concerning given that once disordered eating behaviours begin, they can continue for years, she said.
Past research has found that it takes about a year after giving birth before mothers’ feelings about their postpartum bodies return to their pre-pregnancy state.
“But our research suggests that viewing body-focused social media posts may prevent that natural progression of postpartum mothers feeling better about their bodies over time,” said Tang.
Social media can inspire but also be source of negativity
Haines said she hopes the findings will help raise awareness among health-care providers who work with pregnant and postpartum mothers about the potential negative influence of social media on their self-image.
“We would like to see the development of social media literacy training at prenatal classes or postpartum care appointments that encourages mothers to engage positively with social media and reduce their interaction with ideal body-focused images,” she said.
Tang doesn’t believe new moms should avoid social media. Instead, they should try to avoid content that leaves them feeling down.
“Social media can inspire us, connect us with our community and be a place to go to find support when you’re up at 3 a.m. because your newborn won’t sleep. However, it can also be a source of negativity and unrealistic comparison,” she said.
“My goal — both for mothers and as a mother — is that we learn to harness social media as a positive tool and figure out how to filter out those negative influences.”
The research was funded in part by the Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research.
Dr. Jess Haines
Top media outlets demand US end prosecution of Julian Assange
US charges against WikiLeaks founder threaten press freedom and set ‘dangerous precedent’, US and European media say.
The United States must end its prosecution of Julian Assange, top global media organizations have urged, saying the US indictment against the WikiLeaks founder threatens free expression and freedom of the press.
In an open letter on Monday, five leading media outlets denounced the US’s prosecution against Assange, who is wanted on 18 counts, including a spying charge.
“This indictment sets a dangerous precedent and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press,” wrote the editors and publishers of The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El Pais.
“Holding governments accountable is part of the core mission of a free press in a democracy.”
The letter comes exactly 12 years after the media outlets published revelations gleaned from WikiLeaks’s release of more than 250,000 confidential US military records and diplomatic cables, known as “Cablegate”.
The material was leaked to WikiLeaks by then-US soldier Chelsea Manning and revealed the inner workings of Washington’s diplomacy around the world.
The documents exposed “corruption, diplomatic scandals and spy affairs on an international scale”, Monday’s letter said.
“Twelve years after the publication of ‘Cablegate’, it is time for the US government to end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets. Publishing is not a crime,” the media outlets said.
The 2019 US justice department indictment accused Assange of causing “serious damage” to US national security with the leak, as well as putting US government sources in danger of physical harm or detention.
But Assange’s supporters say he is being prosecuted for exposing US wrongdoing, including those committed during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He remains in custody in Britain pending a US extradition request to face trial and could face up to 175 years in prison in the US if found guilty. Assange is appealing against the British government’s approval of his extradition.
Monday’s letter noted that, when Barack Obama was president and Joe Biden his vice president, the US administration held off on indicting Assange, as journalists involved could have also had to face prosecution.
That changed under President Donald Trump, when the US justice department charged Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act, which the media outlets said “has never been used to prosecute a publisher or broadcaster”.
The letter is the latest example of pressure on President Biden’s administration to end Assange’s prosecution.
Last year, leading human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union, called on Washington to drop the charges.
“The indictment of Mr Assange threatens press freedom because much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely – and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do,” they wrote.
In July, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also said he gave a letter to Biden in defence of Assange, while also renewing a previous offer of asylum to the WikiLeaks founder.
“I left a letter to the president about Assange, explaining that he did not commit any serious crime, did not cause anyone’s death, did not violate any human rights, and that he exercised his freedom, and that arresting him would mean a permanent affront to freedom of expression,” Lopez Obrador said.
Colombia’s left-wing President Gustavo Petro said last week that he met with WikiLeaks spokespeople and planned to ask Biden not to charge a journalist “just for telling the truth”.
Speaking Notes from media availability police investigation Condor Road, November 28, 2022 – Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Thank you for joining me here today. My name is Scott Sheppard and I am the Commanding Officer of the RCMP’s “M” Division here in the Yukon.
I am here today to provide an update on Thursday’s critical incident at Air North Cargo in Whitehorse, Yukon.
Given that this is an ongoing investigation with multiple agencies, including the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, please recognize that there will likely be questions that I am not in a position to answer.
On November 24, 2022, at 12:37 p.m. (Yukon time), Yukon RCMP received a 911 call reporting that a male with gun was in the area of the Air North Cargo Office. This building is located approximately 2 km south of the Whitehorse International Airport passenger terminal. There were multiple Air North employees present during this incident.
Multiple members from Whitehorse Detachment and the Yukon RCMP Police Dog Service responded immediately. The individual was engaged by police and at approximately 12:50 p.m., there was a police-involved shooting. No employees, members of the public, or the RCMP were seriously physically injured.
Police officers immediately provided lifesaving first aid to the suspect on-scene who was then transported to the hospital by EMS. He was pronounced deceased at approximately 13:30 p.m.
At the request of the family, we will not be releasing the name of the deceased individual at this time.
What we can tell you about the deceased male is that he was a resident of Alberta and in the past had worked in the Yukon. The RCMP has been working with police in both Alberta and Saskatchewan to establish timelines and more detailed information about him and his movements leading up to this incident.
The male worked with several employers in the Territory. Part of his employment was with Air North. We are currently investigating his activities in the Yukon. He had limited interaction with the RCMP.
With regards to the immediate events leading up to this tragic incident, I must bear in mind the multiple on-going investigations that are underway. This consideration limits what I can share with you at this time.
Prior to the arrival of the police, the male with the gun, which we have now determined to be a non-prohibited and non-restricted long gun, gained access to the secured Air North compound. The matter of access to this area has been referred to Transport Canada.
The individual, who was known to the employees, threatened them with the gun. An altercation occurred, during which time coworkers were able to call 911 who immediately dispatched police.
Approximately six minutes later police arrived. At approximately 12:50 p.m. a police involved shooting occurred.
Officers immediately began emergency first aid. This was done by two RCMP officers who are specially trained as emergency police medics.
Yukon EMS transported the male to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased.
Through the Yukon Coroner’s office, an autopsy has scheduled for November 30, 2022 in Abbotsford, B.C.
As this incident ended shortly after it began, there is no further risk to the public.
At the time of this incident, Whitehorse International Airport management and security confirmed that their operations had not been impacted and that the airport remained open. As in any event involving a secured airside location, Transport Canada was notified of the event by RCMP.
As to what took place at Air North Cargo, all of our available resources will continue ensuring public safety as we follow up on this investigation. We continue to provide policing services to Whitehorse and throughout the Yukon. Outside of the forensic assistance provided to us from Alberta RCMP, we have taken steps to ensure that we are adequately resourced from within the Division.
As is standard practice for incidents that involve serious injury or death to any person, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team has been engaged by the Government of Yukon Department of Justice to investigate this police-involved shooting.
ASIRT arrived in Whitehorse Friday morning. Their mandate is to effectively, independently, and objectively investigate incidents involving police that have resulted in serious injury or death to any person as well as serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct.
Yukon Victim Services were engaged to provide support to those directly affected by this incident, while Yukon RCMP employees are also being supported in their wellness.
Multiple scenes were forensically examined and have now been released.
The Yukon RCMP would like to acknowledge the exemplary cooperation of Air North as we continue our criminal investigation. The impact of this serious incident touches many people in this community-minded company across our small Territory.
This has been challenging year with the number of police-involved critical incidents in the Territory. The resulting impacts on the communities we serve are noticeable. I would like to thank the RCMP officers and employees from the Yukon including our dispatchers for their professionalism and dedication. I remain very proud to get to work with all of you.
I would like to also acknowledge the assistance we’ve received from other RCMP Divisions over the past year. Alberta RCMP’s Forensic support during this latest incident has been appreciated.
The RCMP does not work alone. In addition to Transport Canada, I also extend my thanks to the continued close partnership of our Yukon Government partner agencies, including EMS, the Emergency Measures Office, and the Yukon Coroner’s Service.
We ask that anyone with information about this incident call the Yukon Major Crime Unit at 867-667-5500.
Thank you for your time today.
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