Factually Newsletter

Factually: The Catch-22 for journalists in Trump’s pleas for poll-watchers

The call from President Donald Trump and his allies for an “army” of poll watchers is drawing concern from some election experts that Trump supporters will show up at the polls to create conflict and intimidate voters. There is also concern that even the possibility of such conflict will drive voters away. ​​“It is possible that the […]

Factually: Hoaxers turn to the same tactics all over again

Fact-checkers chronicled a flood of misinformation following President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. A big one was that Trump wasn’t really sick — that his diagnosis was either a fake play for sympathy or part of the larger debunked QAnon conspiracy. But three particularly conspiratorial hoaxes followed familiar patterns. They bear similarities to falsehoods we’ve seen before and serve as […]

Factually: Issues compete with atmospherics in the first presidential debate

In a rational world, politicians would argue for their candidacies by making reasoned statements about issues and policies, and fact-checkers could then measure those statements against the truth. Then there is the world we saw in Tuesday night’s debate between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden. It was anything but rational. Amid […]

Factually: Banding together

This week a study by the Oxford Internet Institute showed that only 1% of a sample of YouTube videos spreading COVID-19 misinformation received a fact-checking label when recirculated on Facebook. The study authors concluded that Facebook’s Third Party Fact-Checking program may be overmatched by the sheer amount of false information on YouTube and Facebook. (Full disclosure: Facebook requires […]

Factually: Threats real and imagined

It would be easy if we could just write off conspiracy theories as harmless nonsense. Alas, they might be nonsense, but they’re not harmless. A number of stories this week point to the ways conspiracy theories can lead to harm by causing believers to fear — and sometimes act on — imagined threats, even as […]

Factually: Transparency emerges as a common theme in the debate over content moderation

This week brought two new visions for how to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law, which shields large tech companies from legal liability for content posted by third parties on their platforms, has drawn fire from politicians in both parties. Senate Republicans put forward a bill that would curtail a tech company’s […]

Factually: On fact-checking and fruitlessness

The remarkable performance of CNN’s Daniel Dale after the Republican National Convention last week – where in three minutes he summarily debunked 21 of President Donald Trump’s falsehoods – brought fresh attention to the art of fact-checking. It was, wrote the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan, “a tour de force of fact-checking that left CNN anchor Anderson Cooper looking […]

Factually: How the Postal Service story lends itself to misinformation

The current conversation about the U.S. Postal Service and whether it’s prepared to handle mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic is a perfect case study in how mis- and disinformation take hold in social and conventional media. The story contains many of the elements we commonly see in topics that are ripe for misinformation. But […]

Factually: Platforms scramble to contend with QAnon. Are they too late?

For people who thought QAnon existed mostly on the fringe of society, it might have come as a surprise this week when one of the conspiracy theory’s adherents essentially locked down a seat in Congress. Marjorie Taylor Greene, now the GOP’s nominee for the 14th congressional district in Georgia, is all but assured to win the seat […]

Factually: How hoaxers use hypocrisy

We’ve long known that disinformation preys on intense emotional response. Tommy Shane writing for First Draft in June laid out the myriad ways our psychology can be hijacked to spread falsehoods online. Among the confusion and the politicization of health guidance in the COVID-19 pandemic, hypocrisy is being used as a tool to provoke emotions and question […]