Old people love fake news, the false equivalency trap, and the launch of #PerugiaPrinciples

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edited by Marco Nurra


  • People older than 65 are disproportionately more likely to share fake news on Facebook. NYU and Princeton professors just released an important study that took a set of fake news domains identified by BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman and others and asked who shares them on Facebook. They found that so-called fake news appears to be rare. “The vast majority of Facebook users in our data” — more than 90 % — “did not share any articles from fake news domains in 2016 at all.” Most of the sharing is done by old people, not young people. People over 65 shared fake news at a rate seven times higher than young people 18–29. In fact, age predicted their behavior better than any other characteristic — including party affiliation. Interestingly, people who share more on Facebook are less likely to share fake news than others. “Compare this with accepted wisdom: That fake news is everywhere and that everyone on Facebook is sharing it. That Facebook users can’t tell fake from true. That young people are sharing this stuff and don’t understand how media work and thus are in need of news literacy training. Not so much,” writes Jeff Jarvis.
  • The New York Times and AP bungled their fact checks of Trump’s speech — badly. Fact-checkers wandered into false equivalency territory Tuesday night after President Trump’s Oval Office address on immigration and Democrats’ response to it. “The night revealed that outlets still feel the urge to find fault on both sides or assign neutral blame for political problems. The political press has long wanted to cover politics like a sport, to cover the plays of each party as if they are morally and ethically the same. On a night when the president looked the public in the eye and lied about why the government has been shut down for weeks, the press needs to not fall into the false equivalency trap.”
  • Fact-checkers sparred with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over their alleged ‘bias.’ But it ended on a high note. The congresswoman pivoted away from conflict. She called fact-checking “critically important,” said it’s important for everyone to know the rules and thanked fact checkers for their work. Responded the Post’s Sal Rizzo: “This is classy and I appreciate it.”
  • Memes counter disinformation, spread awareness of pollution in Beijing. The city government restricted any data collected about the air and pushed a narrative that the hazy atmosphere was officially fog or, at worst, mild pollution. The fog-smog narrative is a classic form of disinformation driven, in this case, by a state actor. What happened in China between 2009, when pollution started becoming too serious to write off as sandstorms or fog, and 2014, when the government released its first official decree against pollution, sparking a nationwide push for clean air and clean water? In part, citizens began using the internet, and in particular, memes, to evade censorship.
  • #PerugiaPrinciples — new guidelines for journalists working with whistleblowers in the Digital Age (read the background). The report launch is Jan 16th.
  • Time to get mad about information inequality (again). “The educated see more news on social media than those with less education, the rich see more than the poor, white social media users see more news than non-white users,” writes Kjerstin Thorson. “Exposure to news online is more stratified than offline news use.”
  • Myanmar court rejects appeal by jailed Reuters reporters. “Today’s ruling is yet another injustice among many inflicted upon Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. They remain behind bars for one reason: those in power sought to silence the truth,” said Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler in a statement.
  • Turkish journalist sentenced to prison for Malta story. Pelin Unker wrote of secret companies owned by the PM’s son. “I did my duty as a journalist. The story was about public figures. I fulfilled my duty to announce the incident to the public. The right to reply was granted to himself. I don’t think the story I did constitutes a crime”, Ms Unker was quoted as saying.
  • Der Spiegel made up stories. How can it regain readers’ trust? “Members of the general public do not know how journalists know what they know; they don’t know much about journalistic process or journalistic methods,” says Ruth Palmer, but journalists can “try to educate the public about how they know what they know.”
  • The Washington Post launches Arabic-language Global Opinion page. This online destination will host high-quality translations of Global Opinion columns, editorials and op-eds that are relevant to the Arabic-speaking audience.

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