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The Week in Fact-Checking: Tragedy, compounded by misinformation

Last week’s shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 dead and several injured spawned the usual hoaxes that follow American tragedies: fake images of the shooter, posts claiming he was a member of Antifa, false identifications and phony screenshots of his Instagram account. Then there were those that aren’t so typical.

Imposter tweets targeted journalists attempting to cover the shooting, leading to a cascade of online harassment. Twitter at first denied that was against their policies, then said the rules should be revised. Conspiracy theories about students organizing gun control demonstrations took offtrending on YouTube and populating search results (at least for a while). There was an incorrect story that led to careless sharing by professionals and many corrections. Another story led to a legislative aide being fired.

Some students took the conspiracies in stride, but as Snopes’ Bethania Palma put it, “we’re living in a dystopian hellhole of false information.” So what’s the solution?

This is how we do it

This is bad

A closer look

  • Discuss: “Media literacy programs in schools are so outdated, they’re backwards.
  • The New York Times has a deep dive into Brazil’s anti-fake news efforts.
  • Where are the Japanese fact-checkers?

Coming up

This is fun

  • ESPN “fact-checks” Lonzo Ball’s rap lyrics.
  • Other sites have fake news. SoundCloud has fake music.
  • A local fact-checking project in Nevada is using Abe Lincoln for its ratings.

If you read one more thing

Fake news is an existential crisis for social media.

Quick fact-checking links

The Pope was fact-checked, and it did not turn out well for him.  //  The Secret Service is fact-checking now?  //  Will the Bad News video game help kids spot fake news?  //  Buyers of political ads on Facebook will be verified with postcards this year.  //  The Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism has launched two fact-checking websites, Udeme and Dubawa.  //  The American Bar Association fact-checks politicians’ blathering about treason.  //  Social media platforms need to admit they are trafficking in “automatic weapons,” says John Battelle.  //  Italy is trying to combat Russian influence on its upcoming election.  //  By far, Facebook and Instagram were the go-to sites for Russian interference in the 2016 election, says the Justice Department.  //  Broadcast personality Afia Schwarzenegger will host the “Political Police” comedy fact-checking show on TV Africa.  //  A good thread on what conspiracy theories offer to believers.  //  This game teaches how people spread online misinformation.  //  Here’s a fact check of what a Facebook executive said about Russian disinformation.  //  What we still don’t know about fake news and its growth.  //  Twitter fact-checks a “Hulk Hogan” interview.

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