NewsLocal News


News Literacy Week: How to spot and stop misinformation online

The E.W. Scripps Company has teamed with The News Literacy Project for National News Literacy Week.
News Literacy
Posted at 8:45 PM, Jan 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-25 20:45:27-05

The E.W. Scripps Company has teamed with The News Literacy Project for National News Literacy Week.

The week is designed to help viewers spot misinformation and prevent it from spreading.

In the Spring of 2019, there’s a chance you saw a video on your social media timeline of a Texas woman telling the operators of a food truck she would call Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The video and the hashtag #TacoTruckTammy soon went viral when other social media users uploaded the video on their own timelines.

One tweet from a separate account generated more than 33,000 retweets.

But Dr. Darren Linvill, who studies disinformation and online propaganda at Clemson University, says that particular account, which has since been suspended by Twitter, was tied to Russia.

“The (Russians) are trying to raise the prevalence of racial conflict in America,” said Linvill, who has done work with the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Army Cyber Command.

“These are very serious issues, very real things of course, this actually happened. But (the Russians) wanted to make sure you heard about it.”

Sometimes it’s not about what you see online, but what you don’t see.

During the Winter Olympics last year in Beijing, China, the hashtag #GenocideGames went viral.

It was meant to spark a conversation about China’s alleged human rights violations.

“China didn’t want that hashtag to spread. So, they started flooding that hashtag with their own accounts. So that real users who were trying to use that hashtag to try to talk about Chinese atrocities and the Beijing Olympics couldn’t do so,” said Linvill.

It’s not just foreign influencers who try to manipulate the cyber world.

At home, Linvill says bad actors do it with fake stories, often targeting political parties.

“They often, also, sort of, key into things that people want to believe,” Linvill said. “Especially, about the other side. Negative things about the people they don’t like.”

Linvill says the best way to avoid bad actors and misinformation online is for consumers to treat the digital world like it’s the real world.

“You need to remember when you’re going out in the digital world, most people mean you no harm. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t treat a stranger like they’re a stranger,” said Linvill.

For media organizations, Linvill says they need to do a better job of helping viewers understand journalistic best practices.

Something Fox 4 and our corporate owners, the E.W. Scripps Company, are committed to doing.