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MISSION POSSIBLE: SPOT MISINFORMATION IN 24 HOURS

24 hours to spot misinformation, two social media platforms, and one person who can’t put her phone down. *Cue the Mission Impossible theme song*

morning header

A day off from work means getting to sleep in a little later than usual. (Yay!) Today, the day begins around 8:30 a.m.

8:30 a.m.: Wake up and walk straight to the coffee machine without missing a beat. With a coffee in hand, I scroll through Twitter to get the morning news. Dr. Fauci is trending at #3, so naturally but cautiously I click. This article by OpIndia—a news outlet I’ve never heard of— appeared at the very top of the page. The tweet had received almost 2k likes when I first came across it. Unsure about the validity of this headline, I save it to investigate later.

  • Fact Check: One red flag: the article uses tweets as its sources— many of which have to do with the far-right group Project Veritas. I have not found any mainstream news outlet that has published similar findings to what is described in this article. However, the New York Times has reported on Project Veritas’ lack of validity in the past and has used the phrase “coordinated disinformation campaign”. Additionally, according to First Draft, Project Veritas has been “accused of manufacturing content to promote false narratives such as election fraud and media bias, amplified false information about the Covid-19 vaccines.” The MediaBias/FactCheck website gives Project Veritas a “mixed” rating for factual reporting. As a result, I lean toward deeming this article/tweet as misinformation. Because of that, I would likely mute the conversation on Twitter.
OpIndia Tweet and Fauci trending on Twitter screenshot

9:30 a.m.: At this point, I’m on Instagram scrolling through the ‘Explore’ page. One post about Betty White catches my eye. At first glance, it looks to be a meme of sorts with a tweet by Betty White attached to it. While this meme is funny, something tells me the tweet by Betty White might be fabricated.

  • Fact Check: Turns out, after further research, Betty White had not tweeted this at any point in time—you can check out her Twitter here. In fact, she rarely has tweeted at all since her account began in 2012. (She only has a total of 133 tweets.) As I Googled this tweet verbatim to see where it originated, the search results left me only with other meme sites. This suggests the tweet is, in fact, fabricated. If it had not been, I have no doubt some news outlet would have reported about it. Although this meme is harmless and in good fun, it is still misinformation as the tweet is fabricated. Is “good willed” misinformation still problematic? I think in the case of this meme that has been circulating the Internet, it isn’t problematic; just light-hearted.
Screenshot of the Betty White tweet meme from Instagram

10:30 a.m. I check my email to see if there are any important updates. I come across this email from the organization Move On—which I subscribe to. The email talks about the Senate voting to amend the rules of the Jim Crow filibuster.

  • Fact Check: A quick Google search leads me to this Vox article, supporting the email’s statement about the Senate voting to amend the rules of the filibuster. Since I’ve checked the validity of the email’s contents I would certainly pass the information and petition along to my Twitter and Instagram.
Screenshot of two emails I received from organizations I’m subscribed to

11:30 a.m.: I see the little red number on the ‘Mail’ app icon indicating a new message, so I click. From another organization I follow—Color of Change— I received an email stating there was a massive COVID-19 outbreak at Danbury Prison Camp and the women are being denied medical care.

  • Fact Check: For added transparency, the organization links the sources of its information, which led me to this NewsTimes article. The New York Times has also reported about this, which one can view here. I had never heard of NewsTimes, but it is given a “high” rating of factual reporting by the MediaBias/FactCheck website. Since I know the information to be true, and reported by respected and trusted news outlets, I can now click and sign the petition—and even pass the petition along on Twitter.
afternoon header

12:30 p.m.: Lunch time! While I eat my lunch, I re-watch some episodes of Derry Girls on Netflix. I search for updated news on Google about the upcoming season 3 of Derry Girls, but there is yet to be a release date. (Crying emoji).

1:30 p.m.: Briefly, in between course work, I check Twitter again. I come across this tweet by Reese Witherspoon that has seemingly gone viral. Underneath, is what appears to be a very similar tweet made by Reese Witherspoon herself, but has different words.

  • Fact Check: Obviously, since I can see the original tweet, I know this other tweet to be false. The doctored tweet looks so real that it certainly could confuse and misinform audiences without the original context. Because of this, I consider this tweet to be either ‘imposter content’ or ‘manipulated content’. It is evident how easily people can fabricate tweets. Would I report this fabricated tweet? Probably not—because it doesn’t seem malicious, but rather just ridiculous.
Screenshot of the original Reese Witherspoon tweet and the fabricated Reese Witherspoon tweet

2:30 p.m.: I drive to the bank, Target and get a coffee to revive my spirits while I listen to music from this Spotify playlist.

3:30 p.m.: Scrolling through Twitter again, (am I addicted to Twitter?) I come across this tweet by a “Spider-man Updates” account. The headline states that The Academy has contacted Tom Holland to host The Oscars. It doesn’t seem that far-fetched but it does seem a little too good to be true; usually comedians host The Oscars.

  • Fact Check: To my surprise, this news can be found in several other mainstream news outlets—originally reported by The Hollywood Reporter. The only slight difference with this tweet and the information in The Hollywood Reporter article, is that this tweet makes it sound like Tom Holland is definitely hosting, whereas the original article states that The Academy is “exploring the possibility”. I don’t think this is misinformation, but rather how different readers could interpret the title of the tweet. Since I’ve decided its not misinformation, I can like the tweet. (Who doesn’t love Tom Holland?)
Screenshot of the Spider-Man tweet

4:30 p.m.: While Googling Derry Girls earlier, I discovered that some of the actors from the show have a podcast titled Whistle Through the Shamrocks. I give the first episode a listen while I do some laundry.

Screenshot of the organization Impact’s Instagram post

5:30 p.m.: On Instagram again, I come across this post by an organization I follow called Impact. There are numerous slides, but this particular slide states “U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said that agents confiscated more than 3,000 fake vaccination cards shipped from Shenzhen, China.” There isn’t any link to a source or a date attached to it, so I save it for investigating later.

  • Fact Check: I found corroborating information on The Washington Post, USA Today, and CNBC to name a few. However, this news is from August of 2021. With the organization Impact having made this Instagram post just today, I am wondering if this could be considered misinformation due to the post not specifying that the news is from over 5 months ago. Is this considered “false context” because old news is getting re-shared as new? This is an organization that creates “digestible and socially-impactful content” and is not necessarily a professional news outlet. Are they still obligated to let readers know the date with which this happened? While the information is true, I think this still could be considered some form of misinformation simply because readers will assume this happened today—or at least within the last few days.

    In 2020, Facebook implemented a pop-up into their platform, which warns users before sharing old news—according to The Verge. Personally, I find this particular piece of misinformation harmless, but it leaves me hesitant to share this post with anyone on Instagram.

evening header

6:30 p.m.: As I wind down for the night, I eat dinner and simply relax—no phone, just some more Derry Girls watching on Netflix. (I know, I know, I have a bit of a Derry Girls obsession.)

7:30 p.m.: For an hour, I catch up with the K-drama Snowdrop which as of lately has received a lot of backlash and controversy surrounding the “historical accuracy” of the show. The length of this episode is a little over an hour.

8:30 p.m.: At this time, I’m starting to wind down for the night. I listen to Favorite and Sticker by NCT 127 as I go through my night routine to get ready for bed. After which, I read the 2021 Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Night Watchman by Louise Edrich.

9:30 p.m.: Still caught up in The Night Watchman by Louise Edrich, I continue to read this book for another hour. (I am currently participating in the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge.)

10:30 p.m.: Being a bit of a night owl, I am still reading The Night Watchman by Louise Edrich— I can not put this book down!

12:00a.m.:- 8:00a.m. I am out like a light.

reflection header

Surprisingly, I saw less blatant misinformation than I was expecting to. Perhaps this is because I tend to shy away from getting political or health news from Twitter or Instagram. Or perhaps this is because Twitter has a fact-checking program —according to The Verge and also has a user reporting system alongside policies that are firmly against users sharing misleading or false information.

I did, however, notice more health misinformation being purported by users on Twitter than actual news outlets. This was a pattern I recognized. COVID-19 misinformation seems to be a hot commodity on the Internet and I found that a lot of individual users were tweeting outlandish claims in regards to vaccines, Dr. Fauci, and COVID-19.

Screenshot of a user’s tweet

For instance, this tweet by an individual user suggests that Dr. Fauci created the pandemic—which is misinformation—maybe even conspiracy. Factcheck.org has done extensive research on the origins of the COVID-19 virus, none of which have anything to do with Dr. Fauci. So this is unequivocally false. Feel free to view that information, here.

*watercolor backgrounds behind screenshots are from Canva and are free to use

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