Fake News for the Week Ending December 25, 2020

Okay, so this post is a day early, but tomorrow’s Christmas! That doesn’t stop the onslaught of fake news, however, so here’s a brief digest of what happened this week.

  • Have you heard all the misconceptions and conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccine? Like, it was too rushed and can’t possibly be safe, or people with allergies can’t get vaccinated, or the vaccine will actually change your DNA? Yeah, they’re all fake, and CNN does the debunking.
  • Speaking of the COVID-19 vaccine, apparently social media companies are already losing the war against vaccine-related misinformation. Not surprisingly, posts that discourage and make fun of COVID-19 vaccination are racking up big engagement numbers on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media. Vox has the story.
  • “It started with baseless rumors that the inoculations would kill or sterilize the recipients, alter people’s DNA, or fail to keep up with virus mutations. Now it is expanding to more elaborate conspiracy theories in an era already rife with mistrust of government and other institutions.” That’s just part of the proof that misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine could be worse than the plethora disinformation we’ve just experienced regarding the recent presidential election. Read about it in Politico.
  • The controversial COVID-19 relief bill just passed by Congress (but not yet signed by President Trump) has a number of issues but, contrary to memes circulating on social media, it doesn’t provide “more funding to foreign governments and to American arts centers, than to the American people.” That statement actually conflates the COVID bill with the government funding bill negotiated and passed the same week. Politico has all the details.
  • Fake news just doesn’t affect the consumers of those fictional stories, it also affects traditional news media. Case in point is the venerable BBC, which is struggling to survive in this new world of fake news. Bloomberg has the story.
  • Finally, here’s America’s problem with fake news “in one chart.” The gist of it is that an increasing number of citizens are getting their news from unreliable sources. According to NewsGuard, in 2020 nearly one-fifth (17%) of the engagement among the top 100 news sources on social media came from sources deemed generally unreliable. This compares to about 8% unreliable sources in 2019. The top-rated “unreliable” site, The Daily Wire, saw 2.5 times as many interactions in 2020 as in 2019. Read all about it from Axios.

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