Republican election denialism, how to counter conspiracy theories, and journalists’ lockdown-related stress

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Edited by Marco Nurra

Republican election denialism isn’t scary or funny or pathetic. It’s all of the above. In media circles, a debate about how best to cover the fraud lies and frivolous litigation has taken shape. Some commentators have argued that covering them at all is a waste of time that only risks boosting the president’s true, non-legal objective, which is to seed widespread public distrust. Others have covered Trump’s efforts but urged news consumers not to freak about them, given that they won’t work.

How to cover a coup — or whatever it is Trump is attempting. “In general, the press has covered this madness reasonably well. Even Fox News, Trump’s longtime cheerleader, quickly started using the term “president-elect” to refer to Biden,” writes Margaret Sullivan. “Still, some of the worst tendencies of the media are on display, even if in muted form. The two I’ve seen most frequently are the endless infatuation with dramatic conflict and the tendency to give equal treatment to both sides of any equation.”

What did First Draft learn from fact-checking the US 2020 election? The organisation debunked false claims around ballot stuffing and voter fraud and posted them out on a private Twitter account. Special projects editor Jasper Jackson talks about how this event shaped the future of news verification.

Facebook extends political ad ban in US for at least a month. Facebook has announced it will extend its ban on political ads in the US for at least another month, as it continues its effort to keep tabs on the wave of misinformation washing over its platform in the wake of the US election. The ad ban, which started a week before the vote and was initially projected to last just one week after, frees Facebook from having to make difficult calls about whether individual adverts are potentially harmful to the democratic process.

To counter conspiracy theories, boost well-being. Conspiracy theories can undermine political participation, discourage environmental protection and incite violence. Involvement in online conspiracy-theory communities, such as QAnon, can contribute to violent extremism, according to an analysis this year. And those who believe conspiracy theories are less likely than those who don’t to comply with public-health measures. But how to counter conspiracy theories? It is easier to spread them than to refute them. Correcting entrenched beliefs is very difficult. So it is better to prevent falsehoods taking root than to try to weed them out. That means looking beyond their content and the platforms and algorithms that fuel their spread. We need to examine what makes people susceptible. Ideological convictions are a product of top-down cues from politicians and the media, and bottom-up psychological mechanisms. Three broad psychological needs underlie conspiracy beliefs: the need to understand the world; to feel safe; and to belong and feel good about oneself and one’s social groups.

Google News Initiative releases its 2020 impact report. “Over the last two years, the Google News Initiative has supported more than 6,250 news partners in 118 countries through $189 million in global funding, programs, tools and resources. We remain committed to focusing on three key areas: elevating quality journalism; evolving sustainable business models; empowering newsrooms through innovation. We don’t have all the answers yet, but we’ll continue to test new ideas with partners and publishers around the world,” writes Richard Gingras, Vice President of News, in his intro letter.

68 more news organisations and freelancers receive grant funding through the European Journalism COVID-19 Support Fund. The European Journalism Centre (EJC), in partnership with the Facebook Journalism Project (FJP), has announced 68 more news organisations and freelance journalists receiving grants through Wave 2 of the European Journalism COVID-19 Support Fund. Wave 1, launched in April 2020, saw €1,530,000 awarded to 94 news organisations and freelancers. In Wave 2, grantees are serving local and regional communities and communities of interest across 28 European countries. This includes countries previously represented in Wave 1, as well as 7 new countries: Albania, Czech Republic, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden.

Three quarters of journalists experience lockdown-related stress. A new survey sheds light on how the coronavirus pandemic and working from home have affected journalists’ mental health.

Female journalists covering Mexican feminist protests face harsh police response. Lizbeth Hernández, a freelance journalist based in Mexico City, is documenting a rising women’s protest movement against gender-based violence in the country. According to federal data, deadly violence against women reached record heights in 2019; more than 1,000 women were murdered because of their gender, an increase of 10% over 2018, news reports said. Fueling the anger are reports of sexual harassment and assault by police officers in cities such as Mexico City and Guadalajara. In recent months, covering such protests has become increasingly fraught with danger as police respond with overbearing force, intimidating, corralling, and harassing protesters. Hernández recently experienced such excessive force herself, when she was detained by police while covering a feminist collective’s occupation of the offices of the State Human Rights Commission in Ecatepec, just east of Mexico City.

Mexican journalist killed as he investigated human remains. A 31-year-old journalist was shot dead on Monday in the central state of Guanajuato while he was reporting on the discovery of human remains dumped on a road in the city of Salamanca.

A narrator of Afghan hope and suffering. Mohammad Ilyas Dayee, an Afghan journalist working for RFE/RL, was killed in a targeted bomb attack in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province, on November 12. His younger brother, a former reporter for Deutsche Welle, was also injured in the attack.