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Why some people are more likely to believe COVID-19 conspiracy theories

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Why some people are more likely to believe COVID-19 conspiracy theories

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People who get their news from social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19, according to new study led by researchers at McGill University in Montreal. Those that consume more traditional news media have fewer misperceptions and are more likely to follow public health recommendations like social distancing, the paper published in the latest issue of Misinformation Review concluded.

The likes of Twitter and Facebook have increasingly in recent years become the primary sources of news, and misinformation, for people around the world, the study said. In the context of a crisis like COVID-19, however, there is good reason to be concerned about the role that the consumption of social media is playing in boosting misperceptions, says co-author Aengus Bridgman, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at McGill University.

Even after adjusting for demographics such as scientific literacy and socioeconomic differences, those who regularly consume social media rather than traditional media were less likely to observe social distancing and to perceive COVID-19 as a threat. There is growing evidence that misinformation circulating on social media poses public health risks, says co-author Taylor Owen, an associate professor at the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University.

The researchers looked at the behavioral effects of exposure to fake news by combining social-media news analysis and survey research. They combed through millions of tweets, thousands of news articles and a nationally representative survey of Canadians to answer: How prevalent is COVID-19 misinformation on social media and in traditional news media? Does it contribute to misperceptions about COVID-19? And does it affect behavior?

The social-media platforms have been criticized for their failures to stop the spread of misinformation, especially concerning elections and the coronavirus pandemic, despite a number of new policies enacted since Russia used the platforms to interfere in the 2016 elections. In May, Twitter marked tweets by President Donald Trump with a fact-check warning label for the first time, after the president falsely claimed mail-in ballots are substantially fraudulent. (He has continued to make such claims on social media and elsewhere.)

Last week, social-media sites attempted to quash a video pushing misleading information about hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment which led to Twitters partially suspending Donald Trump Jr.s account. The video featured doctors calling hydroxychloroquine a drug used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis for decades a cure for COVID, despite a growing body of scientific evidence that has not shown this to be true.

Some outlandish and unsubstantiated rumors about COVID-19 persist. To adherents of such beliefs, its a dastardly bioweapon designed to wreak economic armageddon on the West; a left-wing conspiracy to damage the re-election prospects of Trump; a virus that leaked from a Wuhan, China, laboratory, perhaps with intent. Paranoia politicizes a global public-health emergency and distract from potentially life-saving measures to contain and/or slow the spread of coronavirus, health professionals say.

In April, the president floated the idea of using ultraviolet light inside the body or a disinfectant by injection as a treatment for coronavirus I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? a suggestion doctors called dangerous. (The next day, Trump claimed he was not being serious: I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen.)

As of Tuesday, COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, had infected at least 18.3 million people globally and 4.7 million in the U.S. It had killed over 694,713 people worldwide and at least 155,478 in the U.S. The disease is experiencing a resurgence in southern and western states. Cases in California hit 520,707 and deaths reached 9,507 as it reported 8,258 new cases Monday and 134 new deaths, compared to 4,381 new cases and 35 new deaths Sunday. New York has the most fatalities (32,719) followed by New Jersey (15,846).

The stock market has been on a wild ride in recent months. The Dow Jones Industrial Index, the P 500, and Nasdaq Composite were relatively flat early Tuesday after closing up Monday, as investors tracked round two of the potential fiscal stimulus; some of the industrys largest and most powerful players Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google parent Alphabet Inc. reported their results last week.

Big challenges remain for 21st-century journalism, too. Traditional journalism, according to a study released last year, has been shedding objectivity. Researchers found a major shift occurred between 1989 and 2017 as journalism expanded beyond traditional media, such as newspapers and broadcast networks, to newer media, including 24-hour cable news channels and digital outlets. Notably, these measurable changes vary in extent and nature, they concluded.

Our research provides quantitative evidence for what we all can see in the media landscape, said Jennifer Kavanagh, a senior political scientist at RAND, a nonpartisan think tank in Santa Monica, Calif., and lead author of the report on Truth Decay, on the declining role of facts and analysis in civil discourse. Journalism in the U.S. has become more subjective and consists less of the detailed event- or context-based reporting that used to characterize news coverage.

The analysis carried out by a RAND text-analytics tool previously used to identify support for and opposition to Islamic terrorists on social media scanned millions of lines of text in print, broadcast and online journalism from 1989 (the first year such data were available via Lexis Nexis) to 2017 to identify usage patterns in words and phrases. Researchers were then able to measure these changes and compare them across all digital, media and print platforms.

Researchers analyzed content from 15 outlets representing print, television and digital journalism. The sample included the New York Times, Washington Post and St. Louis Post-Dispatch, CBS, ABC, CNN , Fox News, MSNBC, CMCSA, Politico, the Blaze, Breitbart, Buzzfeed Politics, the Daily Caller and the Huffington Post. They found a gradual and subtle shift between old and new media toward a more subjective form of journalism.

Before 2000, broadcast-news segments were more likely to include relatively complex academic and precise language, as well as complex reasoning, the researchers said. After 2000, however, broadcast news became more focused on on-air personalities and talking heads debating the news. (The year 2000 is significant as ratings of all three major cable networks in the U.S. began to increase dramatically.)

Traditional newspapers made the least dramatic shift over time, the study observed. Our analysis illustrates that news sources are not interchangeable, but each provides mostly unique content, even when reporting on related issues, said Bill Marcellino, a behavioral and social scientist with RAND and co-author of the report. Given our findings that different types of media present news in different ways, it makes sense that people turn to multiple platforms.

Its not the only report to find a shift toward opinion and subjectivity in news. Tumultuous news cycles have made an impact on global opinions regarding media, according to the 2019 U.S. News & World Reports 2019 countries ranking. Some 63% of people say that there are no longer any objective news sources they can trust. Whats more, more than 50% agree that political and social issues around the world have gotten worse over the past year.

That survey drew on answers from 20,301 people around the world. Republican baby boomers were found to be more likely to share fake news on Facebook in the study. Why? One theory puts the emphasis on this groups age: As they didnt grow up with technology, they may be more susceptible to being fooled in an online environment. (Case in point: the variety of scams that have had success with older Americans by preying on their lack of familiarity with how computers and technology work.)

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories – KTVZ

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories - KTVZ

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Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York are calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to create a new bipartisan committee focused on election integrity and schedule hearings to reassure Americans over a process President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine.

There is growing anxiety among Democrats, and some Republicans, that Trump will not only continue to sow doubt over the legitimacy of the coming election but throw the subsequent count into chaos by declaring victory before all the votes can be tallied, including the millions that will arrive by mail.

In a letter to McConnell, Sanders and Schumer quote back the Kentucky senator’s own words, in which he attested to the reliability of mail-in voting by citing its successes in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, which have been using the system for years.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the validity of mail-in voting, promoted conspiracy theories questioning election security, called on supporters to act as unsanctioned “poll watchers,” and suggested that the absence of a clear result by the evening of November 3 would in some way cast doubt on the eventual outcome. Key allies in powerful positions, like Attorney General Bill Barr, have followed suit. Barr has persisted in puffing up a debunked claim that ballots received by mail would somehow strip the sender of their privacy — ignoring well-established safeguards.

By escalating the matter now, Sanders and Schumer are responding to growing concern, in partisan and nonpartisan spaces, that Americans are not adequately prepared for the potential of a longer-than-usual wait for results or Trump’s willingness to short-circuit the democratic process if he smells defeat.

“Democrats and Republicans in Congress must come together to ensure that we have a free and fair election where every vote is cast and counted without intimidation,” Sanders told CNN, “where no one has to put his or her health in danger to cast a ballot, and where we have full confidence in the results.”

The proposed hearings would invite a cross-section of election officials from across the country to testify to the security and reliability of mail-in, early- and in-person voting — subjects on which Sanders and Schumer, again, referenced McConnell’s own words.

“Despite the clear security of our vote-by-mail system, some have continued to undermine it with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud,” they wrote. “As you have correctly said, people ‘can vote early, you can vote on Election Day, or you can drop it in the mail,’ and that voters should ‘not worry about your vote not counting.’”

The minority leader and Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also want more detailed discussion about the fraught hours, or days, after the polls close and a real-time watch of the election horse race potentially swings from one candidate to another.

“We know a number of states may well be counting ballots for a period of time after Election Day, and that those votes may be determinative in this election,” the senators wrote to McConnell. “To avoid disinformation, conspiracy theories, and suspicion about results, we must understand the likely timeline for this process.”

The letter goes on to reference the recent war games-style preparations conducted by a group called the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan gathering of operatives and academics that made headlines when some of the outcomes of their exercises — including “both street-level violence and political impasse” — were reported on in late July.

“A bipartisan group of experts and officials have studied multiple scenarios where the outcome of the election was not immediately known. Some of these scenarios resulted in unrest and even violence,” Sanders and Schumer wrote, suggesting the Senate should elevate similar discussions and familiarize the public with the uncertainties ahead. “We would like to hear from the most knowledgeable people in the country as to how we can do everything possible to make sure that the election and the period afterward is secure and peaceful.”

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS supported Caputo, with a statement that called him a critical, integral part of the presidents coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was no immediate statement from the White House.

Attempts to reach Caputo were unsuccessful.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called on Azar to fire Caputo, accusing the spokesman of trying to interfere with CDC reports to the medical and scientific community, as well as the public at large. And Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Azar himself to resign, citing interference with the CDC as one example of what he termed the administration’s failures.

Officials at CDC have privately complained of recent efforts by political appointees at main HHS to try to edit or press for changes in the agency’s weekly MMWR publications, a go-to resource for public health professionals.

MMWR articles are technical, but they reveal telling details. One published earlier this year noted that while Trump’s travel restrictions dramatically reduced travel from China in February, nothing was being done at that time to restrict travel from Italy and Europe, where the coronavirus was spreading widely and rapidly. Analysis of virus samples from hard-hit New York in March suggested it was introduced there from Europe and other parts of the U.S., the CDC article reported.

Caputo is an unswerving Trump loyalist. His recent book, The Ukraine Hoax, claims the presidents phony impeachment was rooted in a vast conspiracy.

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS…

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS...

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My RSS Feedunwinona:

This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS and Polio narrative (among others), only we’re seeing it escalated to weeks and months instead of years or decades.

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