May 13, 2021

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Flood the zone co-founder Kathleen Hall Jamieson sat down with IFCN director Baybars Örsek Wednesday to lay out a new approach to fact-checking health misinformation that puts an emphasis on information rather than refutation. Jamieson’s model organizes fact checks into themes rather than list them chronologically by publication date as seen on most fact-checkers’ and news outlets’ websites.

“We know from the scholarship about memory that organizing content into themes increases recall,” Jamieson said. “We don’t just want people to read or watch our stuff. We want them to remember our stuff.”

Jamieson highlighted a fall 2020 pilot program by The Washington Post that organized readers’ frequently asked questions about COVID-19 into categories. She noted the Post’s layout still required users to search through an array of icons to get answers to their questions, but praised the paper for experimenting with this layout.

Jamieson offered her own layout that broke down COVID-19 fact checks into seven public health categories, which could then be broken down into subcategories. She argued that organizing fact checks into these public health categories prevents falsehoods from taking root by putting a focus on the public health facts.

“It is more effective to have knowledge in place before people are exposed to deception than to debunk after they’ve been exposed and accepted it,” Jamieson said. “Don’t negate. Displace.”

She said this model takes the debunk that usually comes at the end of a fact check and moves it to the front to preempt whatever falsehood it’s meant to negate. Jamieson added that the model boils down public health knowledge into “verbal and visual gists.”

“It’s the bottom line. It’s not all the details, and gists increase memorability,” Jamieson said. She added that taking this approach increases the public’s familiarity with the information and makes it harder for misperceptions to take root in the face of wide public acceptance.

Interesting fact-checks

Screenshot by Lead Stories

  • Lead Stories “Fact Check: This ExxonMobil Gas Station Sign Is NOT Real” (in English)
    • I highlighted a similar fact check by Lead Stories in April, but I’m bringing it back to demonstrate how viral hoaxes can be repackaged and recycled, especially now with Americans worried about gas prices after the Colonial Pipeline hack. Lead Stories reminded its audience of the meme generator used to create this and several other hoaxes.
  • Agência Lupa “It is false that a two-year-old baby died during a Pfizer vaccine test” (in Portuguese)
    • In the wake of Pfizer receiving emergency use authorization to administer its COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 12, a hoax is spreading in Brazil that children are dying in that country during vaccine trials (they’re not). Agência Lupa pointed to publically available trial data and tied the origin of the hoax to an American anti-vaccine website with a history of spreading misinformation to debunk this claim.

Quick hits

From the news: 

From/for the community: 

  • PolitiFact has been hosting its festival of fact-checking, United Facts of America. Read the recaps of Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3, and click here to get tickets for today (the last day!)
  • “The Social Challenge: Fact checking social misinformation,” from NBC News. As part of its week-long series on the impacts of social media on American culture, NBC News highlighted the work of MediaWise teaching media literacy to both teens and older adults.
  • “A framework for information incidents,” from Full Fact. In response to the COVID-19 infodemic, Full Fact, in partnership with 12 other organizations including fact-checkers, tech companies and academic institutions, developed a framework for how the global community could react to the next infodemic.

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Harrison Mantas is a reporter for the International Fact-Checking Network covering the wide world of misinformation. He previously worked in Arizona and Washington D.C. for…
Harrison Mantas

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