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Category Archives: Fake News

Poor numerical literacy linked to greater susceptibility to Covid-19 fake news – The Guardian

Posted: October 20, 2020 at 6:25 pm

People with poor numerical literacy are more likely to believe Covid-19 misinformation, according to a survey conducted in five countries.

Researchers at Cambridge University said the findings suggested improving peoples analytical skills could help turn the tide against an epidemic of fake news surrounding the health crisis.

Five national surveys reflecting national quotas for age and gender were conducted this year to evaluate susceptibility to coronavirus-related misinformation and its influence on key health-related behaviours.

The study found the most consistent predictor of decreased susceptibility to misinformation about Covid-19 was numerical literacy the ability to digest and apply quantitative information broadly.

People in Ireland, Spain, Mexico, the US and the UK took part in the study. Their numerical literacy levels were calculated on the basis of three different numeracy tests.

Participants were presented with nine statements about Covid-19, some false (for example, 5G networks may be making us more susceptible to the coronavirus) and some true (for instance, people with diabetes are at higher risk of complications from coronavirus).

Participants were also asked about their risk perception of Covid-19, what extent they complied with public health guidance and their likelihood of getting vaccinated if a vaccine were to become available.

Overall, higher susceptibility to fake news was associated with lower self-reported compliance with public health guidance for Covid-19, as well as peoples willingness to get vaccinated against the virus and recommend the vaccine to vulnerable family and friends.

Some scientists think that susceptibility to misinformation is related to political views, while others think it is linked to reasoning abilities, study author Dr Sander van der Linden explained.

My take is that both are relevant. And I was surprised to see numeracy playing such a strong role here it was one of the single most important predictors, he said. I like that finding in a sense because it gives me hope that theres a solution out there.

Another distinct factor linked to belief in Covid-19 fake news was age, the researchers found. Being older was associated with lower susceptibility to misinformation everywhere (except Mexico) inconsistent with prior research that typically found the opposite pattern, at least in the context of elections.

It could be that older people are less susceptible [to misinformation] but theyre still sharing it more, Linden said, adding that they may also be less inclined to endorse Covid-19 misinformation because there is an incentive to be accurate as the elderly are the biggest casualties of the disease.

The research, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, also found that people who were more receptive to misinformation viewed themselves as minorities and appeared resistant to voices in authority such as scientists and politicians.

Political conservatism was also linked to a slightly higher susceptibility to misinformation, the researchers found, but surprisingly, this link was not as strong in the US and UK as it was elsewhere.

Dr Emma ODwyer, a senior lecturer at Kingston University who was not involved in the study, wondered why the researchers had chosen these five countries to survey.

There are differences across the countries, she said. This paper doesnt provide an account at the country level for why these relationships are different.

The paper also does not give as much attention to how or why misinformation takes root in the first place, said Dominic Abrams, a professor of social psychology at the University of Kent, who was not involved in the research.

Beyond individuals susceptibility there is the question of how and why some misleading sources can achieve an air of legitimacy.

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Poor numerical literacy linked to greater susceptibility to Covid-19 fake news - The Guardian

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Trump duped by fake news story of Twitter going down to protect Biden – Global News

Posted: at 6:25 pm

U.S. President Donald Trump blamed Thursdays global Twitter outage on a deliberate attempt by the company to protect Joe Biden, citing an obviously fake news story written in the style of The Onion.

Twitter Shuts Down Entire Network To Slow Spread of Negative Biden News, read the headline on the Babylon Bee, a Christian satire site. The fake story claimed that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had smashed up his servers on Thursday to censor an unverified New York Post story about the Democratic nominee for president and his son, Hunter.

Twitter did limit the spread of the story on Thursday due to its policy around hacked materials. However, there is no evidence that the story had anything to do with the Twitter outage on Thursday afternoon.

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Wow, this has never been done in history, Trump tweeted Friday morning, along with a link to the Babylon Bee story. This includes his really bad interview last night. Why is Twitter doing this. Bringing more attention to Sleepy Joe & Big T.

Its unclear if Trump actually read the story, which starts with Dorsey and several weak-armed programmers struggling to smash all the computers at Twitter HQ, and ends with a bunch of robots attacking all the cis white males in sight. The article does not include anything about Bidens town hall event on Thursday, as Trump mentioned in his tweet.

Critics mocked Trump for seemingly believing some literally fake news a term he often uses for real news reports that he does not like.

Its satire, writer Dan Fagin wrote in response to Trumps tweet. Satire is the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose stupidity. It worked.

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The Bees website crashed multiple times on Friday as Trumps legions of followers and critics flocked to the site.

The Babylon Bee describes itself on Twitter as fake news you can trust, and its homepage is filled with satirical headlines such as Trump gets totally stoned in lively 7-hour interview with Joe Rogan, and Amazons NewLord of the Rings series to include bisexual transgender elf in wheelchair.

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The Babylon Bee is the worlds best satire site, totally inerrant in all its truth claims, the site says.

The Bee celebrated Trumps error by sharing a link to one of its stories from 2018.

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President Trump declares the Babylon Bee his most-trusted news source, the website tweeted.

The story was originally written as satire, though Trump provided evidence to support its claims on Friday.

Trump appeared to blame Twitter for his error Friday morning in a follow-up tweet.

Big T was not a reference to me, but rather to Big Tech, which should have been properly pointed out in Twitters Fake Trending Section! he wrote.

Trump has renewed his attacks in recent days on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects social media companies from being held responsible for what others publish on their platforms. Trump has been targeting Section 230 amid efforts by Twitter and Facebook to fact-check his false and misleading posts about mail-in ballots.

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Section 230 protects sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube from liability for posts made by their users, including Trump.

If platforms were not immune under the law, then they would not risk the legal liability that could come with hosting Donald Trumps lies, defamation, and threats, Kate Ruane, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Associated Press in May.

Trump has a well-documented history of promoting conspiracy theories and other misinformation around the coronavirus, far-left anarchists, mail-in voting, his crowd sizes and Barack Obamas birth certificate, among other things. He has also been reluctant to condemn extreme views.

On Thursday night, for example, he refused to denounce the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, which holds him up as a warrior for God against so-called deep state pedophiles out to drink childrens blood.

I know nothing about QAnon, he claimed during the debate.

Trump made similar claims when asked about the group and its beliefs in August.

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I dont know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate, he said at the time. Ive heard these are people that love our country.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have banned the extremist movement from their platforms amid concern that it was encouraging real-world violence.

The U.S. presidential election is slated for Nov. 3.

2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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REFILE-‘Not fake news:’ COVID-19 cases surge in Wisconsin ahead of Trump campaign rally – Reuters

Posted: at 6:25 pm

(In paragraph eight, inserts dropped words)

CHICAGO, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Two weeks ago, Mark Schultz was getting ready to go to work at the tavern he owns in the Wisconsin city of Oshkosh when he started to feel sweaty, achy and chilled.

Within days, the 64-year-old was in an intensive care unit at a local hospital fighting for his life.

Schultz, his 45-year-old fiance and his 10-year-old son are three of the 41,000 Wisconsinites who have tested positive for the virus over the last two weeks, according to state health officials.

I want people to know this is real. This is not a hoax. Its not fake news like the president said, Schultz said.

Wisconsin has recently become an epicenter of the pandemic in the United States.

On Friday, the states department of health services reported grim records as daily COVID-19 cases reached 3,861 and the seven-day average of new confirmed cases topped 3,000 for the first time.

This virus is unbelievable what it does to people, he said during a phone interview with Reuters on Friday from his home, four days after getting out of the hospital. I literally thought I was taking my last breath. Its like someone has a foot on your chest.

Despite the surge in cases in Wisconsin, President Donald Trump plans on Saturday to make a campaign stop in Janesville as he seeks to make up for time lost during his own bout with the coronavirus earlier this month.

Wear a mask, Schultz said to those who plan to attend. There is so many unknowns with this thing. That is the scary part.

For a second day in a row, the United States reported more than 60,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday as infections spike in all regions of the country, according to a Reuters analysis.

The United States reported over 63,000 new cases on Thursday and over 60,000 new cases on Wednesday, a level on back-to-back days not seen since late July and as total U.S. cases surpassed 8 million.

The surge in cases comes in the final weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential election. Trump has continued to minimize the threat to public health posed by the virus that has killed more than 217,000 Americans and 1 million globally.

The rise in U.S. cases is beginning to tax hospitals in some regions, with Wisconsin setting up a field hospital and reporting that in some areas more than 90% of hospital intensive care unit beds were filled as of Thursday.

The field hospital had yet to receive its first patient as of Friday morning, according to a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Administration.

Meanwhile in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott said on Friday the state was increasing medical personnel and supplies as well as personal protective equipment for hospitals in Amarillo, Lubbock and surrounding counties, which are seeing a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Deaths nationally remain fairly steady at 700 per day, but health experts caution fatalities are a lagging indicator that rise weeks after a surge in cases.

Deaths were already rising in several Midwest states over the past two weeks compared with the prior two-week period, including Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Reporting by Lisa Shumaker and Brendan OBrien in Chicago, additional reporting and writing by Maria Caspani in New York, editing by Cynthia Osterman

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‘Manipulated and fake’: NTA rubbishes news claiming topper in ST category was given wrong ‘failed’ result in NEET – The New Indian Express

Posted: at 6:25 pm

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The National Testing Agency under the Union education ministry on Tuesday said it is lodging an FIR under the IT act for circulation of a manipulated and fake news which projected that a student who had failed in the National Eligibility cum Entrance test was actually a topper in the ST category.

It is, however, not clear against whom the FIR is being registered and the official sources said that it is being finalised.

There have been reports that a 17-year-old student Mridul Rawat who had obtained 329 marks in the NEET, results for which were declared recently, had tweeted to the NTA challenging his results.

Later, he reportedly received a fraudulent e-mail which confirmed to him that he had actually got 650 marks, as he had claimed and was the topper in the ST category.

This news is being circulated by some unscrupulous elements on social media and even some regional news channels which have been running it without seeking our version, said a government official. In fact, we got the students answer sheet re-checked and the results were found to be exactly the same as before.

This, the official said, was intimated to the student.

The NTA has declared the result after thorough scrutiny and assured all aspirants that the result declared by NTA is correct, the agency said in a statement.

However, it has been revealed on some news channels in social media that shockingly some unscrupulous elements are claiming that the results declared by NTA are incorrect- it added.

Referring to Rawats case, the testing agency said that the news is even being broadcast at local news channels in some cities.

The news is totally fake, fabricated and one sided only, the NTA said. The news channel should have confirmed this from NTA before broadcasting this fake news. In the instant case, a complaint is being filed by the NTA with the cyber security cell under the IT Act at Noida, Uttar Pradesh.

The agency cautioned that while all genuine grievances will be entertained, manipulated and fabricated cases will be viewed seriously and NTA will be forced to take legal action as per laws of the land against such candidates including cancellation of their candidature or other unscrupulous agents representing such candidates.

Candidates in their own interest, are once again advised not to fall prey to any unscrupulous person/agent/spokesperson promising them any favorable changes in their OMRs/results, else legal and punitive action, will be initiated against any/all such persons involved in spreading fake news and maligning the image and prestige of the National Testing Agency, said the statement.

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'Manipulated and fake': NTA rubbishes news claiming topper in ST category was given wrong 'failed' result in NEET - The New Indian Express

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Beware of Fake News On City Council Races – Odessa American

Posted: at 6:25 pm

OA logo 2 wide

Posted: Sunday, October 18, 2020 5:00 am

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Beware of Fake News On City Council Races Jeff RussellOdessa Odessa American

It appears that Kirk Edwards has become the CNN or MSNBC of Odessa when it comes to spreading fake news about our local city council races.

In his recent letter to the Editor, Mr. Edwards goes on a wide ranging rant about the Ector County Republican Party and other involved parties such as the Government Accountability Project. Mr. Edwards clear intent is to spread misinformation and mistruths about groups that are working to change the status quo in Odessa - a status quo that has greatly benefited the establishment over many years but which has come at the expense of the average hardworking, taxpaying Odessan.

He calls the Government Accountability Project a foreign group but in fact this group is led by Jaimie Tisdale, a 29 year resident of our city who owns the Wilsons Corner store at Pleasant Farms. A quick review of Jaimes Facebook page would clearly show her as the leader of this group and I applaud Jaimie for her relentless efforts to uncover waste and abuse in our local governments. Mr. Edwards clearly takes umbrage against any group other than his own group of insiders releasing information to the public or supporting any candidates that he deems unworthy.

Mr. Kirk then goes on to disparage our local Republican Party officials for their recent endorsements of local candidates which were carefully chosen and vetted by duly elected Republican Precinct Chairs for their work in the local party and for their adherence to core Republican values such as fiscal conservatism and a small and limited government. The duplicity of Mr. Edwards statements in this regard are surreal; he begins with accusing Republican leaders like Dick Saulsbury who make up the Ector County Republican Party Executive Committee as being part of an AOC Squad, while in the next breath he endorses and encourages Republicans to vote for JoAnn Davenport, who is an unabashed and vocal progressive Democrat running for city council.

Mr. Kirk claims that this imaginary squad has a nefarious agenda of being against economic development and infrastructure work which couldnt be further from the truth exhibited by the candidates that were endorsed by the Republican Party. Much in the same way that President Trump is continually attacked by the insiders who would seek to rule our country for their own benefit, these candidates are, at their core, Trump Republicans who understand that, as leaders, they must strive to meet the most needs of the most Odessans and not be beholden to narrow special interests like those represented by Mr. Edwards. It makes one wonder what Mr. Edwards will gain by promoting his block of big spending politicians?

My belief is that Odessa voters are smarter than to fall for a pack of lies and mistruths that insiders such as Kirk Edwards are promoting and that they will vote for solid Trump Republicans that will put voters needs ahead of the agenda of a small group of elites who desire to rule Odessa for their own benefit. My hope is that Mr. Edwards will leave the Fake News business to the real pros who constantly attack President Trump.

Posted in Letters To Editor on Sunday, October 18, 2020 5:00 am. | Tags: Letter To The Editor

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Beware of Fake News On City Council Races - Odessa American

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Investigative journalist will address ‘fake news’ in virtual talk – Ripon Commonwealth Press

Posted: at 6:25 pm

Fake News and Conspiracy Theories in the Age of Trump, a talk by investigative journalist Michael R. Isikoff, will be offered via Zoom webinar Tuesday, Oct. 20 by Ripon College.

The talk will run from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. Registration is available at ripon.edu/fake-news.

A post-event recording will be available on YouTube at go.ripon.edu/p1a.

The event is sponsored by the Center for Politics and the People, with funding by the Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Isikoff is an investigative journalist and chief investigative correspondent at Yahoo! News.

The moderators will be professor of communication Steve Martin, Ripon Class of 1996, and Henrik Schatzinger, associate professor of politics and government and co-director of the Center for Politics and People.

Isikoff will highlight the importance of a free press in a democracy. He also will address other topics and issues related to the media and the press during the Trump administration such as the idea of fake news and its impact on the election cycle.

Formerly, Isikoff was a national investigative correspondent for Newsweek and NBC, where he reported on politics and government scandals such as the abuse in Abu Ghraib and Bill Clintons involvement with Monica Lewinsky.

He also is the author of Uncovering Clinton: A Reporters Story and Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, and the coauthor of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putins War on America and the Election of Donald Trump.

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Misinformation Is Hyperlocal. Attempts to Counter It Should Be, Too. – Foreign Policy

Posted: at 6:25 pm

As the remaining days before the U.S. presidential election dwindle, misinformation is approaching a crescendoand the big digital platforms are racing to keep up. This week, Twitter will turn off some of its features and Google has changed its search results. Facebook, meanwhile, will ban all new political advertisements for the week in advance of the election, has blocked the conspiracy theory group, QAnon, and has deleted a post by President Donald Trump claiming COVID-19 is less lethal than the flu. Most recently, both Facebook and Twitter have been drawn into a fiery controversy for interveninghiding, blocking, and then unblockinga front page story in the New York Post about Joe Biden.

Inevitably, digital platforms will struggle to keep up. Fact-checking organizations will do their best to refute untruths, yet after the genie has escaped the bottle, there is little they can do, since untruths travel further and faster than facts. Witness the New York Times Daily Distortions section devoted to all the news that is, in fact, not fit to print; it will serve as amusement for the Times regular readers, sure, but it is hard to imagine that it will do much to persuade those who already mistrust the mainstream media.

And that points to what is missing from existing efforts to battle fake news. The major social media platforms are adopting blunt instruments to tamp down misinformation. But misinformation, like politics, is local. It plays to individuals fears, anxieties, predilections, hopes, and desires. Often, the kernel of misinformation campaigns is a real local incident, which is then distorted. (For example, a video that Trump supporters claim shows shredded mail-in ballot applications in Pennsylvania actually seems to show shredded print production waste.) Then, there is no getting around the fact that some parts of the United States are more vulnerable to misinformation campaigns than others; and some parts are also more likely to be targeted with misinformation because they play an outsized role in determining the outcome of elections.

All this points to a new strategy for countering misinformation.

Consider Florida. A battleground state with 29 of 270 electoral college votes, it is one of the most highly contested states in the presidential race. It has faced a highly specific misinformation campaign focused on issues likely to resonate with states Latino communities, which both parties are trying to win over. Spanish-language YouTube channels, WhatsApp message chains, and pro-Trump Facebook groups have been saturated with conspiracies ranging from the existence of a deep state designed in this case to evoke fears among people from authoritarian regimes like Venezuela and Cuba to rumors that the billionaire investor, George Soros, is funding caravans of Central Americans in their attempt to come to the United States, to false allegations of pedophilia associated with Joe Bidenall areas of concern among different constituencies in the Latino community.

A New York Times column pointing out these falsehoods wont work. Rather, it is smaller-scale campaigns by digital platforms, local media, and Florida residents that are needed. Just as political ads and outreach are targeted with a local audience in mind, misinformation catch-and-kill campaigns need to do the same. This would involve identifying location-specific dog whistles and media channels, identifying local influencers and posters who are trusted and can lend credibility to any fact-checking and de-bunking campaigns, along with localized ads and community-level dialogues.

Of course, Florida isnt the only case. To understand where anti-misinformation campaigns are most needed, Tufts Fletcher School, where I am the Dean of Global Business, put together a Misinformation Vulnerability Index that identifies the states most at risk. The index was built by incorporating data on several crucial factors that, according to numerous research studies, contribute to misinformation vulnerability. These include status as a swing state, education levels, age, political polarization, left or right leaning news viewership, and trust in news drawn from social media, among others. All 50 states and the District of Columbia were analyzed using these criteria.

In the resulting categorization, there is a strong correlation between states that are highly vulnerable to misinformation based on factors such as age, polarization, and trust in news and the states that voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Ahead of this years election, the most vulnerable states again skew in favor of Trump in the coming election.

It is also the case that states with highly contested elections are more likely to be vulnerable to misinformation. Of the top 25 most vulnerable states, 12 have a highly contested racepresidential or Senatecoming up. In the 25 least vulnerable states and the District of Columbia, there are seven highly contested races ahead.

In an ideal world, social media companies, journalists, and local organizations would train their efforts on all 12 states that are both highly vulnerable and highly contested. But with time and resources steadily disappearing, it is worth narrowing the area of concern even further to the shortlist of states with high misinformation vulnerability, that are also considered swing or battleground states. Those are: Florida, Maine, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and New Hampshire. These are the places where local advocacy groups, monitors, and social media companies need to focus their resources to track, capture and resolve misinformation.

In Ohio, for example, misinformers have targeted the Black community in the hopes of suppressing turnout; perhaps the same creative energies on social media platforms that brought peaceful protestors out into the streets after the killing of George Floyd using geotargeted messaging can be employed to counter such manipulation. And in Wisconsin, memes and Facebook and Twitter posts by Russian agents impersonating Wisconsin residents were used to create social discord and keep voters at home; counter-messaging can be developed with genuine locals who can build better awareness and offer tips for good social media hygiene (e.g. dont like or share posts that seems salacious or outrageous without fact-checking). The same goes for the other states on this list.

In the run-up to next months vote, there is far too much focus on what the giant platforms, such as Facebook, can and cannot do for the nation as a whole. There is no time for that anymore. But there is still time to get smart about hunting and correcting misinformation where it is most damaging. Misinformation, like politics, thrives on microtargeting. Anti-misinformation strategists need to learn that lesson now. Today, the very future of U.S. democracy is at stake; how we combat misinformation will, tomorrow, shape the future of truth, lies, and democracies around the world.

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We’re launching an election-season ad campaign to fight fake news, and we need your help – USA TODAY

Posted: September 18, 2020 at 1:20 am

Alexander Heffner and Alan C. Miller, Opinion contributors Published 5:00 a.m. ET Sept. 13, 2020 | Updated 10:04 a.m. ET Sept. 14, 2020

Don't fall for misinformation on voting and candidates in 2020. Protect yourselves and democracy by verifying facts and breaking out of your bubbles.

In the 2016 presidential election, foreign and domestic disinformation flooded social media platforms, misled and misinformed Americans and sought to depress turnout, especially among historically marginalized young and Black voters. Memeswith false information were deliberately directed toward voters on Twitter and Facebook to deter people from voting.

Once again in 2020, disinformation about the election including the voting process has been spread widely and endangers our democracy. U.S. intelligence officials have issued warnings about ongoing tactics to hack Americans, manipulate the mediaand sow confusion about the campaign and election. President Donald Trump himself hassuggestedthat peoplevote twice, which is illegal, and has amplified electoral and QAnon conspiracies.

Thats why our organizations, the News Literacy Project and The Open Mind Legacy Project, are distributing public service announcements around the country this week to combat malicious fabrication, botsand online trolls that seek to mislead voters and suppress voting. These engaging and animated PSAs will seek to inoculate voters against viral deception about how and when they can vote and encourage them to be skeptical about the election information they encounter.

We fully expect the onslaught of disinformation to ramp up over these next weeks, including more pernicious and deliberate attempts to stymie voters and effectively deny them their franchise. Its essential to repel these efforts to dupe voters into believing that they can vote via text, social media, or telephone, that the election has been postponed or canceled, or that polling places have closed or moved.

Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and helped Donald Trump win. We look back at history and ask: Will they do it again? USA TODAY

Our PSAs, which will air in Spanish and English, debunk myths about voting,encourage voters to break out of their filter bubbles, and advise them to verify facts with multiple sources before sharing social media posts. The campaign will focus especially on Black and Latinx populations particularly hard hit by the pandemic that were targeted in previous election-related misinformation campaigns and remain vulnerable to suppression.

Don't be fooled:I'm a former CIA analyst trained to spot fake news. Here's how you can do it, too.

Earlier this year, during the initial stage of the coronavirus, Americans were voting in primaries and caucusing around the nation with little guidance on how to safely and reliably participate in our elections during a pandemic. Now, in addition to the continued public health advisories about mask wearing and social distancing, we need to increase public awareness to safeguard the countrys public life as well as our public health.

In the absence of more rigorous social media standards, spam protectionand the passage of legislation like the Honest Ads Act that establishes transparency in digital advertising, we know there will continue to be memes, robocallsand other nefarious online dirty tricks designed to hurt voters.

In 2016, most Americans did not know that they were victims of a cyberespionage campaign, and neither the government nor social media platforms wereable to protect the integrity of the airwaves or the digital ecosystem. This year can be different. Even during the pandemic, we have effective virtual means to communicate with our communities, neighbors, co-workersand classmates to ensure that the electorate stays informed.

Tory Burch:Don't take anything for granted. Voting now is as important as it was 100 years ago

We need to work together to preserve a fact-based future. Americans can protect themselves and our democracy by correcting misinformation in real time, staying vigilant for deepfakeor cheapfake videos, not sharing articles they have not read, and remaining skeptical about any information about voting they encounter. Remember: Voting depends on you, and democracy depends on us.

Alexander Heffner (@heffnera)is the host of The Open Mind on PBS and president of The Open Mind Legacy Project. Alan C. Miller (@alanmillerNLP) is the founder and CEO of the News Literacy Project.

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Conspiracy mentality linked to the acceptance of fake news about science – PsyPost

Posted: at 1:20 am

A study published in Politics and the Life Sciences suggests that a conspiracy mentality is linked to increased support for conspiracy theories and higher endorsement of fake news claims.

The nonacceptance of well-supported science is a pervasive problem in todays society. Support for pseudoscience is alarmingly common, and conspiracy theories and fake news claims are rampant on social media.

The proliferation of deceptive claims on social media has done a lot to normalize conspiracy, and to some extent conspiratorial worldviews, study authors Asheley R. Landrum and Alex Olshansky say. We can try to dismiss conspiracy theorizing as something undertaken only by a foil-hat-wearing fringe, however when our friends and neighbors (and sometimes ourselves) begin to believe and share conspiracies on social media, we must acknowledge that conspiracy theorizing is much more widespread.

Landrum and Olshansky wanted to explore factors that lead people towards a disbelief in science, by focusing on the role of conspiracy mentality.

A nearly nationally representative sample of 513 Americans was recruited to take part in an online survey. In order to capture data from individuals with heightened support for conspiracy theories, a separate sample of 21 adults recruited from a flat Earth convention was also included.

The survey measured scientific belief with questions addressing beliefs in climate change and evolution. The survey also questioned subjects belief in certain fake news topics proliferated on social media, such as the belief that the Zika virus was caused by the genetically modified mosquito or that childhood vaccinations are unsafe and cause disorders like autism. Conspiracy mentality was assessed by questioning subjects support for seven different conspiracy theories.

As expected, the sample recruited from the flat Earth conference had much stronger scores on the conspiracy mentality assessment than the national sample. Furthermore, 100% of those from the flat Earth convention reported not believing in climate change, while only 36% of the national sample did. While these findings seem to support the existence of a conspiracy mentality, when the two samples were merged, a conspiracy mentality did not predict the denial of climate change.

Greater conspiracy mentality did predict susceptibility to every fake news claim that was included in the survey (i.e., misleading claims about GMOs, the Zika virus, vaccinations, and a cure for cancer).

Support for these inaccurate, viral claims was not altogether uncommon. As the authors illustrate, About 56% of our national sample said it is likely or definitely true that Monsanto is covering up for the fact that GMOs cause cancer, and 32% of our national sample said that it is likely or definitely true that the Zika virus is caused by the genetically modified mosquito.

The authors stress, even though the number of individuals with pathological levels of conspiracy mentality is arguably small, viral fake news campaigns are dangerous because people who may not be conspiracy oriented are predisposed to accept conspiracies that support their worldviews.

The study was limited since it included a small number of items addressing scientific belief and the rejection of scientific fact. Future studies should aim to include assessments for a wider range of science-related beliefs.

The study, The role of conspiracy mentality in denial of science and susceptibility to viral deception about science, was authored by Asheley R. Landrum and Alex Olshansky.

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Letter: No need to rely on fake news and ignore good Trump news – Thehour.com

Posted: at 1:20 am

Updated 12:11pm EDT, Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Recently Hearst columnist Jacqueline Smith wrote that she wasnt aware of the fake news that gets mentioned so often these days. Id like to call her attention to the article on page B8 of The Hour for Sept. 5. The article with the lead Trump denies calling war dead losers, suckers is a story based on anonymous sources, which appeared in The Atlantic and claimed Trump insulted the American war dead from WWI back in 2018.

The story is a malicious smear published by a magazine whose publisher made a $500,000 contribution to the Biden campaign. The smear is then followed up by the outraged Democrats who are accepting it as truth. The Associated Press story in your paper was 75 percent Democratic Party talking points about Democrats reaction to the story. These types of smears appear regularly in your paper: racist, homophobic, fascist, Russian spy, misogynist, etc. Nothing is too outrageous if its something negative about Trump.

Nowhere mentioned in the paper is the peace agreement between Serbia and Kosovo after decades of disputes and civil war. The agreement includes Kosovo, a 96-percent Muslim state, recognizing the state of Israel and establishing normal relations between the countries. This is just a few weeks after the announcement of the mutual recognition between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, another Muslim state. These may be baby steps to a Middle East solution, but in an area of the world where success has been elusive, the Trump administration should be given credit for making progress.

Theres no need to rely on fake news, made-up stories, and politically motivated hit pieces to fill your pages. There is real news out there, some of it good!

Paul Hunter

Norwalk

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Letter: No need to rely on fake news and ignore good Trump news - Thehour.com

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