Verification and accuracy

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 […]

Factually: Misinformation and claims of censorship

The major social media platforms aren’t always in lockstep on what content they moderate. But this week, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were all on the same page in blocking a video of a group called “America’s Frontline Doctors” touting the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19, contrary to scientific evidence. One of the […]

Factually: About those Facebook labels

This week, Facebook attached “Get Voting Information” links to posts by both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden as part of its larger push to promote accurate election information on the platform. These additions come two months after Twitter attached a similar label to one of Trump’s tweets, which some at the time characterized as an attempt to fact-check the […]

Factually: The power of the pause

A couple weeks ago, the United Nations announced a new initiative called “Pause,” aimed at getting people to stop and think about what they’re sharing about COVID-19 on social media. The campaign is accompanied by the hashtag #takecarebeforeyoushare. It’s hard to know how effective such campaigns will be in stemming the spread of the worldwide “infodemic” of […]

Factually: Fact-checking a moving target

Over the weekend, The New York Times reported on a debate between 239 medical doctors and the World Health Organization over whether aerosolized droplets spread COVID-19. The disagreement echoes an earlier debate in the medical community over whether the public should abstain from taking ibuprofen to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus. COVID-19 is a fast-moving story. Information is […]