The News Literacy Project also offers a program called Checkology, a browser-based platform designed for students in grades 6-12 that helps prepare the next generation to easily identify misinformation. Now, during the coronavirus pandemic, the project is offering access to Checkology Premium at no cost to educators and parents in the United States. In just two weeks of the offer, more than 1,100 educators and parents in 49 states and Washington, D.C., have registered to use the platform with as many as 90,000 students.
You can learn more about the News Literacy Project and all of the educational resources it provides in this piece, but here’s a rundown:
Founded more than a decade ago by Alan Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the Los Angeles Times, the News Literacy Project is now the leading provider of news literacy education.
It creates digital curriculums and other resources and works with educators and journalists to teach middle school and high school students how to recognize news and information to trust — and 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.
The following lessons come from the March 30 edition of the Sift and relate to the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down public life in much of the world, including in the United States.
One of the lessons involves the amount of time that the novel coronavirus lives on surfaces. A new study by the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UCLA and Princeton University scientists says that “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.”
Viral rumor rundown
NO: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not say that SARS-CoV-2 — the strain of coronavirus that causes covid-19 — can survive on surfaces for up to 17 days.
YES: The CDC found genetic traces of the virus — not live samples — in cabins aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship that had been vacated by infected passengers.
YES: A March 23 CNBC report about the CDC study (shown in the Facebook post above) had a misleading headline that inaccurately stated that the virus “survived” on the ship for up to 17 days after passengers had left.
Tip: Responsible news outlets should add a correction or editor’s note when they make substantial changes to headlines. You can often spot a changed headline by checking the story’s URL, which often incorporates the original headline:
NO: The areas with the largest outbreaks of covid-19 do not correspond to areas with the highest rates of vaccination or with mandatory vaccination policies.
NO: Vaccines do not weaken or “hinder” the human immune system.
YES: UCR World News — a Kenya-based website that mixes news with false or misleading items — fabricated a report making this claim shortly after the United Kingdom’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced in a tweet on March 27 that he had tested positive for the virus.
YES: That same false claim about the queen was published (with a Blogspot URL; see the Facebook post above) on Blogger, a free blogging platform owned by Google, by an anonymous writer who cited the fabricated UCR World News piece.
Note: Purveyors of fabricated stories such as these often try to capitalize on public interest about world leaders and other celebrities to generate clicks and ad revenue, especially in connection to other major events (like the covid-19 pandemic).
Tip: Unreliable user-generated websites, like the one in the Facebook post, can blend in with credible sources on social media — so when you encounter a claim that is shocking or extraordinary, make a habit of noticing the URL of the website that published it.
Twitter took action against several high-profile accounts last week for violating its recently expanded rules against “content that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information.”
- On March 25, the platform temporarily locked the account of the Federalist, a conservative commentary website, after it tweeted a link to one of its own articles promoting the idea of achieving herd immunity by intentionally infecting people with the coronavirus at “chickenpox parties.” That same day it also deleted a tweet (link is in Spanish) by Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela, in which he recommended drinking a homemade “brew” to “eliminate the infectious genes” of the virus.
- On March 27, it deleted a tweet by Rudolph W. Giuliani that was copied from another tweet — which Twitter also deleted — by conservative activist Charlie Kirk, promoting the use of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat covid-19 and attacking Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who Kirk and Giuliani claimed had prohibited doctors in her state from prescribing it. (Hydroxychloroquine has been touted as a treatment for covid-19 by, among others, President Trump; on March 29, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for its use against the disease “when clinical trials are not available or feasible.” Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has warned physicians against “inappropriately prescribing” the drug to “themselves, family, friends and/or coworkers without a legitimate medical purpose.”)
- On March 29, Twitter deleted two tweets by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that questioned strict quarantine measures put in place by the country’s state governors.
- On March 30, it deleted a tweet by Fox News host Laura Ingraham in which she claimed that the use of hydroxychloroquine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City had resulted in a “Lazarus”-like recovery for a “seriously ill” patient. (A physician who appeared on her Fox News program and discussed the use of the drug, and whom she identified as being “with Lenox Hill Hospital,” was actually not employed by the hospital; a hospital spokesperson told the Daily Beast that his views did not represent those of the hospital.)
Discuss: Should social media platforms remove posts containing misinformation about the covid-19 pandemic? Should they develop separate guidelines for public officials — such as heads of state — and for other users? Why or why not? Could public officials’ posts — including those that contain falsehoods or other potentially damaging comments or claims — be an important part of the public record? Should such posts be preserved? Is anyone currently preserving such posts?