I’m just answering questions
Podcast host Joe Rogan made headlines in the United States this week for suggesting healthy young people do not need to get vaccinated against COVID-19. While his comments sparked the expected division and derision on social media, they highlight some of the questions fact-checkers have been trying to answer to help the public confront vaccine hesitancy.
FactCheck.org, which launched its SciCheck project back in 2015, has reams of answers to frequently asked questions about the pandemic and vaccines, which they’ve recently made available in English and Spanish. One page discusses the nuances about the emergency use authorization of the COVID-19 vaccines and explains the extra steps these vaccines needed to go through for approval.
In Africa, the fact-checking collaboration Viral Facts has taken a similar approach, producing videos that answer people’s questions and concerns about getting vaccinated against COVID-19. In a Ghanaian TV interview, GhanaFact managing editor Rabiu Alhassan explained how his organization and several others in the collaboration were able to quickly address questions about reported blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports came out from the European medicines agency.
Argentinian fact-checking organization Chequeado helped its audience by developing a page that profiled each of the vaccine candidates being considered for use in the country. Argentinians can read about the effectiveness of each vaccine, how many doses have been distributed, and learn about potential side effects.
While fact-checkers have the tools to help people grappling with questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s impossible to ignore the power highly followed figures like Rogan have. That’s why organizations like MediaWise in the United States and collaborations like Canal Reload in Brazil have tapped into the influencer model to fight falsehoods through fact-checking and online media literacy training.
And while there is still plenty of research being done on the impact of fact-checking on behaviors, fact-checkers know the importance of being a resource rather than a scold to those seeking answers.
- Rappler “FALSE: Canned goods from China contain flesh of COVID-19 victims,” (in English)
- This is a rehash of a claim that first appeared in Zambia in 2016 and prompted a reply from the Chinese ambassador. Rappler also found a similar falsehood among Africa Check’s archives from 2019. To date, China has only sent medical supplies and vaccines to the Philippines, but no canned goods.
- ColombiaCheck “‘Covidiota’ is registered in a dictionary of the RAE, but it has not been accepted,” (in Spanish)
- A post on Facebook claimed that the Royal Academy of Spanish had accepted the word “Covidiota” (a play on the words for “COVID” and “idiot”) into the official dictionary. ColombiaCheck found that while the group had recorded the word’s use in public discourse, it had not yet added it to the official dictionary.
From the news:
- “A private school in Miami, citing false claims, bars vaccinated teachers from contact with students,” from The New York Times. The school’s website advocates for “medical freedom from mandated vaccines,” and has welcomed prominent anti-vaccine figures to speak to the student body.
- “‘Misinformation on Covid’: IT Min asks social media cos to remove more posts,” from The Indian Express. India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has issued takedown notices to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram over posts it claims are spreading COVID-19 falsehoods. However, detractors say the government is trying to stifle criticism of its handling of the pandemic.
- “Religious Leaders Had To Fight Disinformation To Get Their Communities Vaccinated,” from NPR. Officials in England and Israel are focusing their efforts on educating religious leaders about COVID-19 vaccines in the hopes of getting their communities vaccinated.
From/for the community:
- “WhatsApp and the IFCN offer a financial shot in the arm to fact-checkers fighting vaccine misinformation,” from Poynter. Seven fact-checking projects focused on combating vaccine misinformation will receive a combined $500,000 in grant funding.
- “Impossible neutrality: when “the 2 sides of the coin” promote disinformation,” from Chequeado. Guillermo Solovey looks at how “both sides-ism” around COVID-19 creates a false equivalency leading to the promotion of disinformation.
- “Why and how to proactively incorporate public health knowledge into fact-checking,” from Poynter. FactCheck.org co-founder Kathleen Hall Jamieson talks about the importance of proactive fact-checking in public health drawing on lessons from her past fact-checking experiences.
Events and training
- May 12 — IFCN Talks #5: Proactively incorporating public health knowledge into fact-checking: FactCheck.org co-founder Kathleen Hall Jamieson will expand on her new model of fact-checking that focuses more on proactively preempting falsehoods with explanatory content Sign up here.
- May 10-13 — The United Facts of America Festival: PolitiFact’s week-long celebration of fact-checking will include 10-hours of programming featuring speakers Christiane Amanpour, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, CNN’s Brian Stelter, and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner. Get tickets here.
If you are a fact-checker and you’d like your work/projects/achievements highlighted in the next edition, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org by next Tuesday.