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Perspective | A bogus claim about the 2022 World Cup and other news literacy lessons


Here’s the latest installment of a regular feature I’ve been running for several years: lessons from the nonprofit News Literacy Project (NLP), which aims to teach students and the public how to sort fact from fiction in our digital and contentious age. There has never been a time in recent U.S. history when this skill has been as important, because of the spread of rumors and conspiracy theories on social and partisan media sites.

NLP was founded more than a decade ago by Alan Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter at the Los Angeles Times, and it has become the leading provider of news literacy education in the country. You can learn more about the organization and its resources and programs here.

The material in this post comes from the Sift, the organization’s newsletter for educators, which has nearly 22,000 subscribers. Published weekly during the school year, it explores timely examples of misinformation, addresses media and press freedom topics, explores social media trends and issues, and includes discussion prompts and activities for the classroom. Get Smart About News, modeled on the Sift, is a free weekly newsletter for the public.

NLP has an e-learning platform, Checkology, that helps educators teach middle and high school students how to identify credible information, seek out reliable sources, and know what to trust, what to dismiss and what to debunk.

It also gives them an appreciation of the importance of the First Amendment and a free press. Checkology, and all of the NLP’s resources and programs, are free. Since 2016, more than 42,000 educators and 375,000 students in all 50 states, D.C. and more than 120 other countries have registered to use the platform.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, disinformation on Ukraine casualties and other news literacy lessons

Here’s material from the Oct. 17 edition of the Sift:

Dig deeper: Don’t miss this week’s classroom-ready resource.

1. Americans share widespread concerns about the spread of misinformation, with 91 percent of adults saying it’s a problem, according to a new poll. Across the political spectrum, Democrats (80 percent) and Republicans (70 percent) also agree that misinformation increases political extremism. Many Americans report taking steps to avoid misinformation or curb its spread, from deciding not to share content on social media to checking multiple sources or using fact-checking websites and tools.

• Discuss: How does online misinformation increase political polarization? What gets your attention when it comes to online posts and news? Have you ever shared misinformation online, or noticed someone who did? How do you determine whether information online is legit? What steps can you take to avoid spreading misinformation?

“Misinformation” (NLP’s Checkology® virtual classroom).

◦ Infographic: “Is it legit? Five steps for vetting a news source” (NLP’s Resource Library).

“Fact-check it!” (NLP’s Resource Library).

2. Should newspapers endorse political candidates? As the midterms approach, the question of political endorsements by news outlets is sparking renewed debate in newsrooms, with some recently opting to stop endorsing major candidates. Journalists opposed to endorsements say that while there’s strict separation between news coverage and editorial boards, readers don’t always make a distinction between the two. Journalists in support of endorsements say they continue a long-standing tradition of sharp and informed opinion writing in service of the public.

• Idea: Ask students to look at a print or digital newspaper and try to distinguish between news and opinion pieces. What’s the difference between the two sections? What labels or headlines do news outlets use to separate news and opinion?

“Understanding Bias” (Checkology virtual classroom)

“Separate news and opinion, says the public — and clearly label them, say journalists” (NLP’s Resource Library).

“Distinguishing among news, opinion and propaganda” (NLP’s Resource Library).

“Is the newspaper endorsement dying?” (Charlotte Klein, Vanity Fair).

“Opinion, news or editorial? Readers often can’t tell the difference.” (Eliana Miller, Poynter).

You read that right! We’ve relaunched the Viral Rumor Rundown you know and love in a new platform called RumorGuard.

Rules don’t prohibit dating, alcohol at World Cup

NO: This is not an official list of rules for attending the 2022 World Cup.

YES: Both FIFA, the international soccer governing body, and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, Qatar’s World Cup organizers, released statements confirming the list is fake.

YES: This poster was spread by a Qatari citizen group that encourages tourists to abide by the country’s conservative customs.

NO: This group is not in charge of making rules at the World Cup.

NewsLit takeaway: When in doubt, check the source. Videos claiming that these were official rules set to be implemented at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar received hundreds of thousands of views in October 2022. Fact-checkers at Reuters confirmed this list of rules was posted by a Qatari citizen group that has no ties to FIFA. In fact, the graphic includes the group’s logo in the upper left corner. The fake rules likely went viral because they “felt” true to those who think Qatar is a poor choice to host this global event due to the country’s conservative positions on homosexuality, alcohol and other items listed in this meme. Since the rules appeared to confirm those beliefs, many people shared the post. This is an example of confirmation bias.

Dig Deeper: Use this think sheet to explore RumorGuard and evaluate the credibility of this bogus claim about the 2022 World Cup.

Image taken out of context to make false claims about war, BBC

NO: The BBC did not stage, fake or fabricate its coverage of Ukrainian refugees fleeing from Irpin during heavy fire from the Russian military.

YES: This is a genuine still image from a March 6 BBC news report.

YES: In the full BBC video, viewers can hear explosions, see refugees fleeing as buildings burn and view images of civilian casualties.

NewsLit takeaway: A still image was taken from a 3-minute, 41-second BBC video from March 2022 and shared online with the false claim that the reporter was pretending to be on the front lines to dramatize the conflict. This is a common tactic of propagandists who cherry-pick a single item, such as a photo or video still, and use it to misrepresent a larger issue while ignoring troves of contradictory evidence. Be wary of posts that use an individual image out of context to push a claim, in this case that the media fabricates stories about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

• A bogus viral narrative about schools supplying litter boxes for students who identify as animals has increasingly “taken on a life of its own” after being repeated by conservative commentators, influencers and politicians.

• The country with the most resilience to disinformation? According to this media literacy index, it’s Finland, where students are taught how to decipher between misinformation and legitimate news.

• Check out these tips from Stanford History Education Group on what domain names like .edu, .com and .org can — and cannot — tell us about a website’s reliability.

• A group of volunteer journalists in a Minnesota town started their own nonprofit local news outlet after their local paper shut down — and even created a voter guide ahead of the upcoming election.

Joe Rogan, vaccine deniers and other news literacy lessons

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