Accuracy in Media

BuzzFeed News treated ongoing Black Lives Matter protests favorably and misled readers about how emerging data supports crowded protests, despite the risks related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The website headlined its defense of ongoing protests, “The Black Lives Matter Protests Have Taught Us More About The Coronavirus.” The article highlighted the success of ongoing crowded protests to avoid spreading the coronavirus, at least based on recent data. Cellphone tracking data allegedly demonstrated that larger protests may have deterred more people from going outside, which could have led to less exposure to the coronavirus.

The article cited public health officials and their concerns about crowded protests and the potential of spreading the coronavirus in close proximity to multiple people. One expert told BuzzFeed that “there’s too many moving parts” and it is difficult to “know for sure” if the protests increased social distancing among non-participants or not.

Yet BuzzFeed News dismissed these concerns because the cited data did not support it.

The main problem with BuzzFeed News’s article is how it claimed that the data supported its narrative. The article assumed that the cellphone tracking data proved their overall point, which was that protests did not lead to more coronavirus cases. But even the cited health experts disagreed with BuzzFeed News’s narrative.

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