No, a state trooper in Arizona did not find 50,000 Trump votes in a dumpster — and other news literacy lessons about the election


The material comes from the project’s newsletter, the Sift, which takes the most recent viral rumors, conspiracy theories, hoaxes and journalistic ethics issues and turns them into timely lessons with discussion prompts and links. The Sift, which is published weekly during the school year, has more than 10,000 subscribers, most of them educators.

The News Literacy Project also offers a program called Checkology, a browser-based platform designed for students in grades 6 through 12 that helps prepare the next generation to easily identify misinformation. Checkology is available free to educators, students, school districts and parents. Since 2016, more than 29,000 educators and parents in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., have registered to use the platform. Since August 2020, more than 1,000 educators and parents and over 34,000 students have actively used Checkology.

You can learn more about the News Literacy Project and all of the educational resources it provides in this piece, but here is a rundown:

Founded more than a decade ago by Alan Miller, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the Los Angeles Times, the News Literacy Project is the leading provider of news literacy education.

It creates digital curriculums and other resources and works with educators and journalists to teach middle and high school students how to recognize news and information to trust — and it provides them with the tools they need to be informed and engaged participants in a democracy. It uses the standards of high-quality journalism as an aspirational yardstick against which to measure all news and information. Just as important, it provides the next generation with an appreciation of the First Amendment and the role of a free press.

Here’s material from the Nov. 9 Sift: Election aftermath

Misinformation and conspiracy theories thrive when curiosity and controversy are widespread and conclusive information is scarce or unavailable. The deeply polarized 2020 presidential election not only produced these conditions, it also sustained them as ballots in a number of swing states with narrow vote margins were adjudicated and carefully counted.

To be sure, viral rumors swirled in the aftermath of Election Day. People who had been primed by partisan rhetoric to expect voter fraud leaned into their own biases. They misinterpreted isolated moments on live streams of the ballot counting process in counties in several swing states, mistakenly saw “evidence” of rogue ballots being delivered in vague video clips, and were exploited by bad actors who readily circulated staged, manipulated and out-of-context content designed to mislead.

But the impact of these falsehoods was blunted by the work of professional fact-checkers, disinformation researchers and standards-based news organizations — and by social media platforms, which improved their content moderation efforts for the election. Facebook and Twitter took more effective actions against misinformation than either had previously. (However, Twitter indicated that with the election over, it would stop using warning labels on false or misleading tweets about the election outcome but continue its use of labels that provide additional context.) YouTube was more lax, allowing videos containing false claims about the election — including those that it acknowledged undermine trust in the democratic process — to remain live but without ads.

Note: Misinterpreting videos of the vote counting process at locations across the country is a textbook example of confirmation bias.

NO: The video in this viral Facebook post does not show election workers stuffing ballots in Flint, Mich.

Note: A 2019 study by researchers at the Stanford History Education Group found 52 percent of high school students “believed a grainy video claiming to show ballot stuffing in the 2016 Democratic primaries,” which was actually shot in Russia, “constituted ‘strong evidence’ of voter fraud in the U.S.”

★ Featured rumor resource: How can we figure out where this video originated? One way is to capture a screenshot of the video and use it to do a reverse image search. These classroom-ready slides show your students how to do this.

NO: The video in this Facebook post does not show election workers in Delaware County, Pa., illegally filling out blank ballots.

YES: It shows them transcribing votes on ballots that were damaged by an extractor so they could be scanned.

YES: This is a normal process.

NO: This was not the only clip of Delaware County election workers transcribing ballots to go viral as false evidence of fraud last week.

Also: NO: Elections officials in Fairfax County, Va., did not switch “100,000 votes from Trump to Biden.”

YES: An election official in Fairfax County made a clerical error that inflated Biden’s vote total by 100,000.

YES: The error was corrected within 10 minutes.

Note: An election worker in Atlanta went into hiding after a video clip went viral as “evidence” for the baseless claim that he had discarded a ballot. He actually discarded a paper with voting instructions, according to election officials in Fulton County, Ga.

NO: Ballots for the 2020 election were not found in a dumpster in Spalding County, Ga., as this Facebook post claims.

YES: There were empty envelopes from mail-in ballots in a dumpster outside the elections office in Spalding County.



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