3 to Read: COVID-induced media crackdown | NPR’s audience expands | Understanding automated fact-checking

COVID-induced media crackdown: In response to the rise of COVID-19 misinformation, countries around the world have implemented laws and regulations that allow them to slow or stop the spread of fake news. However, human  rights organizations worry that certain governments have taken the restrictions too far, and are using the pandemic as a justification for silencing journalists and whistleblowers. Countries like Cambodia, Egypt and Indonesia have already arrested citizens for allegedly circulating false information, Jenna Hand writes for First Draft. Other tactics, such as internet shutdowns, could prevent people from accessing up-to-date  information about the virus, increasing the risk of people catching COVID-19.

NPR’s audience expands: Though overall radio audiences have shrunk with people working from home, National Public Radio’s influence is larger than ever. NPR hasn’t been untouched by the decline in radio listening, but users are still flocking to the publication on other platforms, such as its website, apps, podcasts, livestreams and social media platforms. Leaders have also been making an effort to reach younger generations by releasing content on Spotify, YouTube and TikTik, Sarah Scire writes for NiemanLab. Investing in its younger listeners has paid off — this year, for the first time ever, NPR’s biggest source of income has been the underwriting on its podcasts rather than its radio shows.

Understanding automated fact-checking: In the age of fake news, fact-checking has become an important journalistic tool. Although fact-checking can be done manually, automated tools are increasingly being used to help catch claims that slip past humans.. Writing for Poynter, Samuel Danzon-Chambaud discusses the two different types of automated fact-checking tools, and delves into cutting-edge research about their application.

By Maya Homan & Matt Carroll


3 to Read: Precautions in Hong Kong | Social media as search engines | Bypassing a news blackout

Precautions in Hong Kong: Apple Daily, a pro-democracy investigative paper in Hong Kong, made international headlines in the wake of a government raid of its offices and the arrest of its founder, Jimmy Lai. The paper has been vocal in its critiques of Hong Kong leaders and in its support for pro-democracy protests. However, since the new national security law passed in late June, reporters at the Apple Daily have been taking precautions to protect themselves, Tiffany May and Austin Ramzy write for the New York Times. These include deleting the contact information of certain sources, moving sensitive information to private servers in different countries and disabling tools like autosaved passwords. Locals have also taken a stand to support the paper, both by purchasing physical copies and investing in Apple Daily’s parent company, Next Digital.

Social media as search engines: During the Covid-19 pandemic, more people than ever are using their social media feeds as search engines. However, vast amounts of information about coronavirus circulating on sites like Facebook and Instagram is not credible. This disconnect between the large number of people searching for information and the small amount of verified information circulating creates what’s known as a data void. Writing for NiemanLab, Tommy Shane examines how data voids contribute to the circulation of misinformation, and points to possible solutions.

Bypassing a news blackout: Amid the largest protest in the history of Belarus, independent journalists and state-run media alike were nowhere to be found. The demonstrations against President Aleksandr Lukashenko resulted in an internet shut down, blocking access to news sites and social media. A messaging app called Nexta managed to bypass the blackout, Diana Kuryshko writes for BBC, allowing updates on police activity, protest instructions and legal resources to reach the demonstrators. The app, which mostly publishes content submitted by its users, now has an audience of over a million. However, its reliance on unverified information and anonymous sources has garnered criticism from journalists who see the circulation of unverified information as dangerous.

By Maya Homan & Matt Carroll

3 to Read: Tom Cotton vs. the 1619 Project | NYT pilots disability-friendly section | DHS surveils journalists

Tom Cotton vs. the 1619 Project: When it was first created, the 1619 Project was hailed as a revolutionary piece of journalism. It contained a series of essays, a broadsheet section and a podcast, all of which analyze slavery as a central part of American history. Though the project was awarded  the Pulitzer Prize and has been incorporated into school lesson plans across the country, it has also received pushback from a few vocal opponents. Writing for the Washington Post, Teo Armus examines the pushback to the 1619 Project led by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, and the online debate that pushed the series further into the spotlight.

NYT pilots disability-friendly section: To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the New York Times opinion section is piloting a series on living with disabilities, Sarah Scire writes for NiemanLab. In addition to publishing a wide variety of pieces from writers with disabilities, the section is also experimenting with production and design techniques to make the section more accessible to readers. The series includes audio versions of every article, improved alternative text for people with screen readers and a braille version that will be available through the New York Times store. The Times has also tweaked its style guide for the issue, allowing writers and sources to capitalize words like “blind” and “deaf” in their pieces.

DHS surveils journalists: In response to the waves of protests against police brutality in Portland, the Departland of Homeland Security (DHS) began compiling intelligence reports on journalists covering the unrest. The reports, normally reserved for individuals suspected of violence and terrorism, highlighted editors and reporters from the New York Times and Lawfare who published leaked documents about the DHS’s involvement in the Portland protests. After the story was released, acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf launched an investigation into the issue. Writing for the Washington Post, Shane Harris uncovers the story behind the intelligence reports and explores next steps for the DHS.

By Maya Homan & Matt Carroll