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In this issue:
  • Election misinformation needs
  • Suspicious Facebook stimulus ads
  • Tutorial: the new Facebook Ad Library
  • Reporting Fellows Update
You may have noticed this First Draft US 2020 newsletter looks a little different. We've rolled out a new visual identity. We’ve made some colorful changes across our website, social media and training spaces too, so look out for the updates.

Your election misinformation resource session 

Our Thursday webinar series continues tonight with discussions on narrative nuance, resources for an effective reporting strategy in the lead-up to November and more. Local newsrooms, journalists and members of collaborative media projects across the country convened last week to lay out their specific election misinformation needs and challenges. Please join us at 5 p.m. EDT to contribute to this conversation. Here’s what we learned last week would be helpful for First Draft to create for local newsrooms:
  • Twitter Lists of local influencers
  • Access to curated CrowdTangle dashboards
  • State-specific and/or regional Slack channel bridges 
  • A collaborative research project to map out a misinformation ecosystem
We want to hear from you, so please fill out our needs assessment and share our newsroom needs form with other newsrooms. 

Suspicious Facebook stimulus ads

While looking at the Facebook Ad Library, First Draft investigative researcher Madelyn Webb noticed how one Facebook Page was spending a significant amount of money on ads but didn’t list the origins of its funding or who was involved in running it. 
Serena Daniels, our Reporting Fellow in Michigan, uncovered the Facebook Page Coronavirus Community Resources MI that has very similar ads. However, these are not labeled "political" and are therefore much harder to discover. 
They soon surfaced a network of connected pages: Coronavirus Community Resources PA and Coronavirus Community Resources WI. The sites have a Twitter and Instagram presence. They look well-crafted. 

The takeaway: We suspect the pages are mining data for election campaigning. We also discovered several private Facebook Groups that have coalesced around tracking stimulus funding. This popular public group organized by a page called Second Stimulus Check has a page manager who reports its location as Malaysia. Notably, Particle Media, the Delaware-registered operating entity of the Chinese news app News Break, has pseudo local news pages that are also running ads about stimulus funding, although they run a wide variety of ads about any topics that may be of interest to them. First Draft will continue the investigation. 

Join our Slack press pool to see these insights

The research investigations around misinformation trends and narratives by First Draft are made available to members of the CrossCheck Slack community. Please sign up here if you would like to join. If you are already a member, please fill out this brief survey about your Slack experience.

Three new ways to use Facebook’s Political Ad Library report

Finding local data through Facebook’s Ad Library has been difficult since its launch, but at long last the platform has added some features. Here are three ways to investigate local ad spending on Facebook, including a couple of new tricks.

1. Compare candidate spending in state races
Scroll to the section labeled “Spending Tracker.” Facebook has added the ability to compare candidates in Senate and House races. Select one of these options, and then toggle to your state and desired district.
2. Compare any advertisers in the “custom” tab
3. View top ad spenders by state
If you scroll down to the very bottom of the Ad Library report, Facebook has added a feature that allows you to view the top spenders in each state in the past day, 7, 30 and 90 days.

Reporting Fellows update

First Draft has five reporting fellows based in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, where they monitor, track and surface misinformation and online commentary.

Sandra Fish in Colorado reports:

A viral video from an affluent Denver neighborhood showing a white woman aggressively questioning a Black man who was taking photos of houses in her neighborhood has spurred local news coverage and discussion in closed Facebook communities. One local news influencer commends the person who recorded the interaction for “calling it out” as a racist incident. In a private Facebook Group for a nearby neighborhood, the woman in the video is identified by name, and criticized for being a conservative Fox News viewer. A protest outside the woman’s house Tuesday drew an estimated 150 people, according to commenters who also noted that the woman had hired two armed guards. 

Damon Scott in Florida reports:

Far-right activist Laura Loomer is a GOP congressional candidate running in Florida’s 21st District, which covers much of Palm Beach County and is home to many older voters. Her campaign is spreading mail-in voting conspiracies on Facebook that link back to her campaign donation page. Similar messages that also link back to her donation page were shared on Twitter. While normally a common move to leverage a presidential platform, local Republican candidates are following Trump's lead in pushing the narrative that mail-in voting means voter fraud.

Shana Black in Ohio reports:

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine declared that counties considered “red” for coronavirus cases must now require people to wear a mask in public. These areas include seven counties that encompass the state’s biggest cities: Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Now stories of local police, schools and municipalities that will not enforce the order are circulating on social media. In a private fitness Facebook Group for Black women, a user said police are passing out masks laden with chemicals that will knock out a person. To counter this type of narrative, local newsrooms should consider producing service journalism stories that show how masking helps reduce the spread of Covid-19.
See you tonight at 5 EDT,
The First Draft Team
Today's First Draft 2020 newsletter is written and compiled by Shana Black, Keenan Chen, Sandra Fish, Howard Hardee, Jacquelyn Mason, Aimee Rinehart, Damon Scott, Diara J. Townes, Shaydanay Urbani, and Madelyn Webb.

If you have missed any of our previous newsletters, or just want a refresher, here’s our archive. And please invite your colleagues to sign up to this newsletter.
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