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Introducing the viral rumor rundown blog

Four years ago, the News Literacy Project (NLP) launched The Sift®, a weekly email newsletter designed to help educators stay current in the field of news literacy and provide them with timely, engaging examples and resources to use in the classroom. We soon introduced a feature called the “viral rumor rundown.” It offered a digest of viral misinformation circulating online and summarized debunks from high-quality fact-checking organizations, while providing ideas for classroom integration.

The rundown quickly became The Sift’s most popular feature and has remained a reader favorite. But its format also prompted feedback for improvement. Rumor entries were not indexed or easy to search. They also didn’t have unique URLs, making them difficult to share. Details of the rumor images were sometimes difficult to see. And some important news literacy takeaways got obscured when we removed educator-facing language for a general public audience.

To help remedy these issues, we’ve created a new blog dedicated to our popular viral rumor entries. We also added a few new features:

  • Each entry has a collection of tags to make the archive searchable by topic (e.g., COVID-19 or immigration) and by key news literacy terms (e.g., “engagement bait” or “stolen satire”)
  • Video-based examples are playable (compared with the screenshots in the newsletter version)
  • A “NewsLit takeaway” section beneath each example provides quick insights and explanations of relevant news literacy skills and concepts
  • Select rumors have a simple, shareable graphic that readers can copy and paste as comments online to fight the spread of false information.

Please note that this blog curates a limited number of viral misinformation examples each week and is not intended as a comprehensive fact-checking resource. It should not be used as a substitute for the work of credible, standards-based fact-checking organizations — many of whom provide important elements that make this blog possible.

As always, we welcome your feedback and ideas about how we can make this blog as helpful and instructive as possible. If you would like to subscribe to The Sift newsletter (for educators) or Get Smart About News (for everyone else)— which include versions of these blog entries — you can do so here.

NLP’s viral rumor rundown is a regular feature in The Sift, its weekly email newsletter for educators, and in Get Smart About News, its weekly email newsletter for the general public. You can subscribe to these newsletters here. Send suggestions, questions or feedback on this rumor or on the viral rumor rundown blog to thesift@newslit.org.