EDITORIAL ARTICLE: Ways to Detect Information Deception | Opinion

The News Literacy Project is a non-profit, national education organization dedicated to educating the public on how to spot false and misleading information. He compiled 10 takeaways from the distortions caused by social media and other sources in 2021.

1. Scientific disinformation

No, vaccines do not magnetize you, increase your risk of infertility, contain localization devices, or cause cancer and HIV. But misinformation about vaccines – along with other science topics like climate change – continued to flood social media feeds throughout the year.

Take-home literacy information: Look to credible and authoritative sources to confirm or demystify scientific content, like NLP’s COVID-19 resource page or reputable institutions like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And be aware that bad actors will even use cute cat videos as “engagement bait” to lure you into their sites and spread lies.

2. Demonstrations and crowds

Photos purported to show large crowds protesting or supporting controversial issues have appeared frequently throughout the year in a misleading manner. For example, one photo did not show a large crowd gathered in Washington, DC on January 5, 2021, the day before a protest in support of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 presidential election that was ended in riots. Instead, it showed people participating in the ‘March for Our Lives’ gun control protest in 2018. A photo of the mass protests in Moscow in 1991 circulated online as ‘evidence’ of large crowds protesting against COVID-19 restrictions and vaccination warrants in Austria in November 2021.

New literacy to take away: Using photos of large crowds in fake contexts is a common disinformation tactic used to exaggerate the level of support for a cause. Do a reverse image search to help you find the original context of a photo.

3. Rumors of January 6

The attack on the United States Capitol on January 6 resulted in a flood of deceptive social media posts, lies and conspiracy theories that began immediately after the riots and continued throughout the year. A fabricated tweet in October that was attributed to Republican Representative of the United States, Marjorie Taylor Greene, circulated online days after social media “sleuths” developed a baseless conspiracy theory that she was the Capitol bomber.

Take-home literacy information: Conspiracy theorists often engage in reasoned reasoning and confirmation bias to fabricate “evidence” for their beliefs. When you come across a far-fetched or controversial claim, check to see if the major fact-checking organizations have debunked it. Or take it a step further and do your own research by practicing some basic digital editing skills, like reverse image search, side reading, and other techniques used by fact checkers to identify forged images.

4. Presidency Biden and QAnon

QAnon followers have continuously promoted false claims that former President Donald Trump actually won the election and that President Joe Biden was posing as president or being played by a body double until Trump is coming back to power. In March, false allegations spread on social media that a video of Biden speaking to reporters at the White House was staged or manipulated using a green screen or generated footage by computer.

Take-home literacy information: Be aware that false statements about staged political events are often linked to dangerous and unfounded QAnon beliefs. Find videos and posts that debunk claims through a basic Google search.

5. Misleading gas prices

Deceptive photos of unusually high gas prices have been used to try to score cheap partisan points online for years and 2021 was no exception – especially as prices rose from historic lows. during the pandemic. A November photo taken at a station in Lancaster, Calif., Showed premium fuel costing nearly $ 9 a gallon. But the photo was taken out of context and did not reflect actual prices at the time.

6. Empty supermarket shelves

Supply chain issues in the news have sparked many misleading social media posts, photos and videos, exaggerating the problem or falsely assigning blame. Articles featuring photos of empty supermarket shelves claimed President Biden’s policies were responsible for the food shortages. But the photos were used in false contexts. Some were taken in Australia and England. A photo of empty shelves in South Carolina is from 2018.

Take-home literacy information: Viral rumors featuring photos of empty store shelves are common during disasters and other events that cause supply chain disruption. Beware of these photos and look for reliable, standards-based sources of information for accurate coverage of supply chain issues.

7.sketches staged out of context

False storylines related to real events and aimed at building followers on TikTok and other platforms continued to trend. A November video that appeared to capture a conflict between crew members on a commercial flight and a passenger demanding a seat change after another passenger refused to show proof of vaccination was in fact staged for a short film.

Take-home literacy information: The film was produced by a social media influencer with a history of making films designed to go viral. Such videos are often posted without revealing that they were staged. These videos may seem genuine at first glance as there are actual cell phone videos of fighting COVID-19 rules on airplanes. Search online to see if a video has been debunked; fact-checking site HoaxEye found selfies posted by the film’s creators.

8. Vaccine damage claims

Every development in the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines – from Food and Drug Administration approval, to private company mandates, to the inclusion of vaccines for children – has sparked viral rumors. Earlier this year, celebrity deaths like that of baseball icon and civil rights activist Hank Aaron were also immediately and falsely linked to vaccines. On the contrary, Aaron died of natural causes at the age of 86 on January 22.

In November, a photo of a vaccination clinic in Foxborough, Massachusetts was digitally altered to promote an anti-vaccine story. Text in a sign in the photo said COVID-19 vaccines were available without an appointment – but was changed to read “Remember to donate your children’s organs (cq)”.

Take-home literacy information: Many claims of vaccine damage involve simple claim and false context. Text on signs, for example, is easy to edit with photo manipulation software and is a common target for bad actors online. Check credible sources for the accuracy of any claims about vaccine damage, including those linking vaccine deaths or injuries.

9. Celebrity T-shirts

Spoofed images of celebrities wearing T-shirts with provocative slogans have been shared widely… again. This post featured George Clooney with a shirt that compared MAGA supporters to Confederates and Nazis. Another showed Captain America actor Chris Evans wearing an anti-Trump shirt. But in both cases, the political messages were added digitally, and Clooney’s original photo was taken in 2015.

Take-home literacy information: Printed messages, including those on T-shirts, are particularly easy to edit and should always be approached with skepticism, especially when they arouse strong emotion or confirm your biases. In addition, many provocative t-shirt designs that have been digitally added to celebrity photos have been created for profit and sold online.

10. The bait of indignation

Posts and tweets designed to evoke strong emotional reactions have remained essential on social media. A tweet took a statement from Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on COVID-19 vaccine mandates out of context to skew the claim that Florida schools will no longer need immunizations, even for polio, the measles and mumps. Critics of the vaccination warrants seized the cancellation of thousands of Southwest Airlines flights in early October to spread baseless rumors that the service disruptions were due to pilots and crews refusing to work in protest against the policy.

Take-home literacy information: Outrage and anger drive engagement on social media. Users who casually scroll through their feeds may react without stopping long enough to understand that a tweet like this was inaccurate, especially if they have strong feelings about the topic. DeSantis has only said there will be no mandate for children to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The cancellations from the Southwest were due to air traffic control issues and bad weather.

The News Literacy Project, 5335 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Suite 440, Washington, DC 20015.

About Julius Southworth

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