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Matter of Facts #27

  • Climate misinformation
  • Need for Chaos
  • QAnon and Twitter
  • UK Russia report
Published every Wednesday

Popular Info

Fact-check of viral climate misinformation quietly removed from Facebook

A fact-check of a viral climate misinformation article was quietly removed from Facebook earlier this month, a joint investigation by Popular Information and HEATED reveals.

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Columbia Journalism Review

Chaos Theory

In the 2016 election cycle, Arceneaux, Osmundsen, and Petersen observed a proliferation of hostile political rumors—an umbrella term encompassing conspiracy theories, misinformation, and malicious amplification of scandals.

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Editor’s Note:

Readers of this newsletter will be familiar with research into why people share fake news, though there may be more at play than partisanship or misplaced trust in a source. Here Amanda Darrach speaks to a researcher about the Need for Chaos and nihilism online.


“Outright Lies”: Voting Misinformation Flourishes on Facebook

While the social media giant says it opposes voter suppression, the data shows a stark picture: Nearly half of all top-performing posts that mentioned voting by mail were false or misleading.

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New York Times

Mistrust of a Coronavirus Vaccine Could Imperil Widespread Immunity

Billions are being poured into developing a shot, but the rapid timetable and President Trump’s cheerleading are creating a whole new group of vaccine-hesitant patients.

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How Your Local Election Clerk Is Fighting Global Disinformation

Jim Irizarry has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of false and misleading information about voting access coursing through social media lately. The assistant county clerk for San Mateo County, California, and his team have been training for this moment for years, since the sophisticated Russian disinformation machine emerged during the last presidential election.

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Editor’s Note:

We often think of things on a national level, but in a place like the US there are thousands of state and local election systems. Here Stateline looks at how officials have been left to deal with misinformation that could impact citizens’ ability to participate in their democracy.

The Conversation

Russian cyberthreat extends to coronavirus vaccine research

A Russian cyberespionage group that hacked into election networks before the 2016 U.S. presidential election is now attempting to steal coronavirus vaccine information from researchers in the U.S., U.K. and Canada.

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NBC News

Twitter bans 7,000 QAnon accounts, limits 150,000 others as part of broad crackdown

Twitter announced on Tuesday it has begun taking sweeping actions to limit the reach of QAnon content and banned many of the conspiracy theory’s followers due to ongoing problems with harassment and the dissemination of misinformation.

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The Guardian

What does the Russia report mean for British people and politics?

The Russia report accuses the government of failing to investigate Russian interference in British politics – in particular during the 2016 EU referendum. The Commons intelligence and security committee’s language is scathing. It says Downing Street showed a “lack of curiosity” over Kremlin attempts to meddle in UK politics. The report doesn’t say whether this complacency was deliberate or an omission. Either way, it amounts to a stunning rebuke of Boris Johnson and his predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May. We now know why Johnson sought to bury the report before last December’s general election. It is embarrassing. He burned political capital to keep it secret.

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Editor’s Note:

The wait for official information on misinformation and influence campaigns can take a long time, as it did here with a report into Russia and British voting such as in Brexit. Here Luke Harding breaks it down and what it means for previous elections.


Inside the Biden campaign’s pushback against foreign interference

He added that he would direct his administration “to leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators” — including potential sanctions and cyber responses — and will call on the the Pentagon, DHS, the FBI, and the State Department “to develop plans for disrupting foreign threats to our elections process.”

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Mother Jones

Teaching people how to spot bad science is a public health tool

Before the pandemic, Laurel Bristow was an infectious disease researcher studying respiratory pathogens at Emory University’s Vaccine Center. In March, her lab paused its work because of the pandemic.

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