A network of teen fact-checkers is tackling online misinformation ahead of the election — here’s what they want you to know about spotting falsified facts

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From the 2020 election to the surging pandemic and nationwide protests, a perfect storm of conditions has caused misinformation to thrive online across social media platforms, at times leading to deadly consequences. But, an army of teens is rising to combat misinformation. Trained through Poynter’s MediaWise Teen Fact-Checking Network, they have learned how to discern fact from fiction online.

The teen fact-checkers warn that misinformation typically provokes a strong emotional reaction from its consumers — and, combined with falsehood and inaccuracy, the false “facts” only serve to stoke long-held divisions and fuel political polarization. Often defined as digital natives, these Gen Z-ers view it as their responsibility to spread awareness about the dangers of believing what you read online.

Poynter’s MediaWise Teen Fact-Checking Network, targeted toward middle- and high-schoolers, teaches Gen Z teens how to spot and debunk misinformation online. With the help of the Google News Initiative, the MediaWise program has trained over 100 teens since the program began in 2018. Together, they’ve produced more than 400 fact-checks in line with editorial standards from the International Fact-Checking Network.

In July, MediaWise fact-checker Thea Barrett, 18, came across an infographic-style image that quoted US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as saying that “only 0.02%” of K-12 children would die if they went back to school amid the coronavirus pandemic. The post’s point: 0.02% still meant 14,740 children would die. When Barrett first saw the post on her feed, she immediately believed it. She didn’t share it on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook where it was rapidly spreading, but for days talked about it with friends and family. 

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Then she fact-checked it for MediaWise.

“No part of it was true,” she said. “Every single part of it was false. And I just believed it because it spiked emotion in me, and it agreed with my reality, but I didn’t even think about the fact that those numbers were made up. It was a false quote.”

As Barrett and outlets such as Snopes and USA Today found, not only was the 14,740 number incorrect (0.02% of total US K-12 students would actually be about 11,000 children), but so was the entire statement attributed to DeVos. Despite there being no record of DeVos ever making that claim, the piece of misinformation went viral — it wasn’t just shared by Gen Z-ers, but also by teachers, students, and concerned citizens across generations. 

MediaWise’s fact-checking program trains teens to look out for widely circulated claims like this one. According to Katy Byron, program manager at MediaWise, the three most common types of online misinformation come in the forms of manipulated videos and photos (including what’s commonly referred to as “cheap fakes”), manipulated infographics, and screenshots of content from one platform that get cross-posted to another platform and manipulated along the way. The network encourages its fact-checkers to ask three critical questions when they encounter any information online, no …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Politics


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