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Why do people share misinformation about Covid-19? Partly because they’re distracted
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April 28, 2020, 2:02 p.m.
LINK: datajournalism.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Sarah Scire   |   April 28, 2020

Remember this one? The video was posted by Twitter user @NickCiarelli, whose bio said he was an intern with Mike Bloomberg’s short-lived, deep-pocketed presidential campaign, and was viewed more than 5 million times.

Some journalists familiar with previous Bloomberg campaigns thought the corny choreography and half-hearted execution added to the authenticity. But the video was, as Ciarelli soon revealed, a fake. Ciarelli was not an intern with the Bloomberg campaign but a comedian with a fondness for satire.

In the introduction to the Verification Handbook for Disinformation and Media Manipulation, editor Craig Silverman writes that journalists “could have found the correct answer immediately — in this case, simply Googling the name of the man who shared it.” Sometimes it’s just that simple. To track down other misinformation campaigns, though, you may need the handbook.

The free online book — published by the European Journalism Centre, funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies, and released today — features six case studies and many more takeaways for journalists committed to telling truth from fiction.

Silverman, who edited the handbook and by day serves as media editor/disinfo czar at BuzzFeed News, writes in his introduction that although everyone should engage with online content critically, reporters have a special responsibility.

“This reality is important for every person to recognize, but it’s essential for journalists,” Silverman writes. “We are being targeted by coordinated and well-funded campaigns to capture our attention, trick us into amplifying messages, and bend us to the will of states and other powerful forces.”

One of the handbook’s in-depth looks, written by CNN reporter Donie O’Sullivan, explains how his CNN team discovered Russia was behind some of the biggest Black Lives Matter accounts on social media.

There’s a chapter on leveling up your searches.

There’s a how-to on spotting bots and other fakes from open-source news organization Bellingcat.

Some of the advice you may have heard before (“Don’t trust anything on 4chan/8chan”) but it’s a thoughtful and reasonably thorough collection nevertheless. Whether you’re sniffing around a social media campaign, presidential election, overseas protest, or the latest COVID-19 news, the handbook’s lessons should be useful.

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