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When Gen Z is the source of the misinformation it consumes

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The post has a galvanizing visual power because of its self-made quality, her youthfulness and the genuine outrage behind her complaint. All are markers of authenticity and credibility to Generation Z, the first Americans who grew up in a social media-dominated ecosystem. The tirade was quickly viewed more than 2 million times on Twitter and 10,000 times on TikTok. The leftist meme page thatsnotrightpolitics shared it with its more than 80,000 followers, where it got over 800,000 views on Instagram alone.

“This is about as un-American as it gets. There’s no exaggeration anymore. Trump wants to be a dictator,” read the thatsnotrightpolitics caption on the video. “Fair and free elections are out the window.”

That is, if it were true. It’s not. Her ballot didn’t come from the government.

Political parties and campaigns often mail out voter registration forms to encourage people to vote. It’s a legal practice that has been reported in a handful of Southern states. There have been no reports of official election notices coming wrapped in partisan advertisements. The mailer probably arrived by coincidence, and a formal application, complete with the Official Election Mail logo, would have been on its way.

The woman in the video, 22-year-old Kendall Olivia Matthews, a Georgia-based actor, told POLITICO she knew it wasn’t from official election organizers and tried to stop its spread when she saw that was how people were interpreting it. The viral video was taken from a series of posts in which she detailed her discomfort in receiving ballot request forms with campaign material, she said.

The viral video wasn’t deliberate disinformation, brewed up by a cabal of Russians or other anti-democratic forces. Rather, the video’s journey from one young woman’s complaint to viral sensation is emblematic of the unprecedented misinformation challenges Gen Z voters face, despite their social media savvy. With an inundation of information, a penchant for picture-based platforms that can obfuscate nuance and an emotional media landscape rife with conflicting and dubious accounts, Gen Zers can and do fall into pitfalls with serious implications on their political outlook.

“Trust in institutions is down across the board, but teens experience even more cynicism about institutions just as a function of their time of life,” said Peter Adams, senior vice president of education at the News Literacy Project, a group that teaches youth about media literacy.

“That can easily lend itself into falling into conspiratorial thinking traps,” he added.

a new media landscape

Gen Z social media habits often drift toward Instagram and TikTok, photo and video platforms where the origins of information can easily be obfuscated. YouTube and Instagram were ranked as the daily new source of choice among a plurality of Gen Zers when compared with text-based media such as Reddit or newspapers, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.

Add to that the emotional atmosphere surrounding this presidential election, an incumbent with a fractured relationship with the truth, a national reckoning on race and the global pandemic of a barely understood disease, and the instincts to fact-check often go by the wayside.

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Biden warns China will ‘eat our lunch’ on infrastructure spending

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US President Joe Biden has warned that China will “eat our lunch” if America doesn’t “step up” its infrastructure spending.

Mr Biden was speaking on Thursday with a group of senators about the need to upgrade infrastructure in the US.

His warning comes the day after his first phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

On the call, Mr Xi took a hard line on human rights saying a confrontation would be a disaster for both countries.

Mr Biden made the comments after meeting with members of the Environment and Public Works committee.

“If we don’t get moving, they are going to eat our lunch,” President Biden told senators.

“They’re investing billions of dollars dealing with a whole range of issues that relate to transportation, the environment and a whole range of other things. We just have to step up.”

During the campaign, Mr Biden proposed spending $2tn (£1.45tn) over four years to create jobs and invest in clean energy infrastructure.

A widely cited American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) “report card” from 2017 gave the country’s infrastructure a grade of “D+”.

The ASCE estimated that the total “infrastructure gap” needed $2tn by 2025 to fix, but would cost the economy twice as much if it went unaddressed.

The World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Competitiveness Report ranked the US 13th in a broad measure of infrastructure quality, down from fifth place in 2002.

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China has been investing heavily in its infrastructure, pouring money into high-speed rail, metro systems, apartment buildings, electricity grids and mobile networks.

“They have a major, major new initiative on rail and they already have rail that goes 225 miles an hour with ease,” Mr Biden noted.

Human rights and diplomacy

President Biden also discussed several other points of friction with the Chinese President during his call.

The White House said he voiced “fundamental” concerns about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices, as well as concerns over China’s crackdown in Hong Kong and treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang.

He also raised China’s increasingly assertive posture toward Taiwan and the country’s lack of transparency over Covid-19, said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Mr Xi maintained a hard line on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, calling them matters of “sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

He told Mr Biden confrontation would be a “disaster” and the two sides should re-establish the means to avoid misjudgements, China’s foreign ministry said.

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GameStop investors on a wild ride: ‘It was a rollercoaster of emotion’

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Shares of GameStop, AMC and others rebounded aggressively in extended trading on Thursday after Robinhood said it will resume limited trading of previously restricted securities on Friday.

“Starting tomorrow, we plan to allow limited buys of these securities. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and may make adjustments as needed,” Robinhood said in a statement.

GameStop shares skyrocketed 61% to trade at $312 in after hours trading, after closing down 44% to $193.60 during regular hours Thursday. The stock’s high for the week is $483.

Robinhood said its decision to restrict trading — which angered many users — was in order to comply with capital requirements mandated by the SEC for broker dealers.

“These requirements exist to protect investors and the markets and we take our responsibilities to comply with them seriously, including through the measures we have taken today,” the company said.

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