The Week in Fact-Checking: Does your favorite Facebook group have a spam problem?

In the fight against online misinformation, Facebook’s News Feed is typically front and center. But an investigation from BuzzFeed News found that spammers are increasingly using fake groups to spread conspiracy theories, troll, hack and harass other users. The tactic is a global problem — and it could get worse. Given Facebook’s recent announcement that group content will be given more prominent placement in the News Feed, even more people could encounter misinformation.

This is how we do it

  • The BBC has created a “fake news” game for kids that puts them in a newsroom in the middle of a breaking news crisis.
  • First Draft has created a one-hour version of their online fact-checking course, especially for journalists, librarians, educators, students and “anyone else who uses information online.
  • Zimbabwe’s first fact-checking organization launched this week. Here’s some background on the project.

This is bad

  • Ars Technica calls out a bunch of media organizations that got the astronaut DNA story all wrong.
  • In the Kenya elections, “weaponized” fake news has become a problem not only for Kenyans but for the U.S. government.
  • Viral misinformation was rampant after a historically close election in Pennsylvania last week, including a fake judge, fake statements and fake illegal voters.


This is fun

  • This Seattle first-grader’s mom posted her son’s homework assignment on Facebook and pleaded for everyone to “practice this exercise in real life.”
  • The Onion has a hot take on Facebook’s efforts to fight fake news: Make fake news real.
  • An author of a study about the relative spread of real vs. fake news is concerned about the “over-interpretation” of the study, so he drew this diagram for clarification.

A closer look

(Screenshot from YouTube)

Coming up

  • International Fact-Checking Day is coming up April 2Here’s what to expectfrom the IFCN — and don’t forget to use #FactCheckIt on social media!
  • You can register now for the Knight Center’s course on verification, led by BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman. It begins April 9.

If you read one more thing

The ultimate fact check of the sources behind a study on the benefits of drinking alcohol.

Quick fact-checking links

Poynter received $3 million from Google to lead a fact-checking effort for kids, but it’s not all new.  //  We should be fighting misinformation with soft power — not censorship, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen argues.  //  After a school shooting in Maryland, repeat hoaxes about the shooter’s identity circulated on social media.  //  Salon points out research that says satire and comedy can be a great defense against the effects of incessant lying.  //  The University of Michigan opens a campus center dedicated to fighting misinformation.  //  Twitter, look how you have, um, grown.  // This London startup says their software can detect if even one pixel of a photo has been altered.  //  A California senator wants to see “a journalist or two” on the proposed state media literacy panel.  //  Infowars is reporting on fake news now? //  Meme factories seem to have switched from soliciting shares to likes.  //  More than 400 schools in England received hoax bomb threats this week.  //  A lawmaker in the District of Columbia shared a conspiracy theory that Jews control the weather.  //  YouTube removed a video from The Atlantic from search results for being “borderline” hate speech.  //  How about we stop giving marketing free coverage?  //  MarketWatch’s headline said that an increase in journalism majors could be attributed to a “rise in fake news,” but it didn’t support that in the story.

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