Another problem on the internet (and beyond) is the existence of so-called think tanks and research organizations that don’t do actual bonafide and tested research or follow the scientific method, but instead arrange “evidence” that backs up the ideas they want to promote. Then politicians, unethical journalists, and others use their work to prop up their own ideas.

Here’s a good article from Wired about this.

One organization I’ve seen lately is the American College of Pediatricians–not to be confused with the legit American Academy of Pediatrics, which props up ideas for anti-LGBT  groups. Here’s an article from Psychology Today about them and another from Patheos.  They are extensively cited by groups listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They should not be confused with the AAP if you see them mentioned online.

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  1. Amara Organics doesn’t sound like a site for a big TV scoop.
  2. It’s both a sponsored post and has a sensationalist headline.
  3. You can do a news search for Lena Headey and see no news like this from any other source.
  4. All of the above.

 

Yep, it’s #4. I didn’t bother giving them a click and my bullshit radar was pinging like crazy at first glance. Yet, they have over 1,600 reactions, 107 shares, and many, many comments (some of which also proclaim it as B.S., at least). There are probably even more by now–I took this screenshot this around noon.

Sure, it’s not that important, but just goes to show how easily a clickbait fake news headline will spread. It’s effective and that’s why even some marketers are using the technique (although I hope it backfires and people are irritated like I am–I will never knowingly buy from this company after seeing this). If they will lie about this, I couldn’t trust anything they claim about their products.

Fork lightning striking down during summer storm
This info is late for those who were affected by Harvey and now Irma, but there are already more hurricanes in the Atlantic, so here are some myths about preparing for hurricanes and info from FEMA.

Here’s an article from the Miami Herald about a few myths. I totally remember the window taping and cracking windows from my time living in Houston. Also, I lived here in New York state during Irene and Sandy, and while we had flashlights, we also used plenty of candles–not the safest choice in a house with kids.

Here is more info from the Tampa Bay Times. I have seen a meme going around a lot about storing valuables in the dishwasher because it’s waterproof–think again. It’s only waterproof from the spray inside–not from forceful waters coming from outside.

And here’s a really important link from FEMA addressing a number of rumors and scams related to disasters. Please share this link widely–much better than sharing random internet rumors and anonymous memes.

Here is an amazing PDF of guidelines for how to evaluate information using the CRAAP test.

Currency: The timeliness of the information
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs
Authority: The source of the information
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content
Purpose: The reason the information exists

You can click the link at the top for more explanation, of course. You can also watch a video here:


Credit to Raritan Valley Community College’s Evelyn S. Field Library.

This went around a while back and I have seen it shared again a few times today. I guess 12418812_1023432564376267_569278533865056591_oit’s making the rounds again in light of Hurricane Harvey.

Please, please don’t screen grab this and start sharing before you read what I have to say. I’ve purposely kept it small so it’s not too legible here.

Do you know who originally came up with this meme? Do you know how old it is? Do you know anything at all about its accuracy? If not, then it may not be the best source of information out there for which charities are the best.

Here is some info on this meme from Snopes.

And here is a link from the Federal Trade Commission about how to check into a charity that might be more helpful than a random meme on Facebook.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for somewhere to donate, here’s a link from Texas Monthly about ways you can help after Hurricane Harvey.

 

 

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Here’s a helpful video on spotting fake news, and teaching others how to spot it. I am the mother of three (one in elementary school, one in middle school, one in high school), and I’m always trying to teach my kids how to be skeptical of what they see on the internet.

All credit to John Spencer on YouTube, who has other great videos you might want to check out.

Texas flag grungeAs someone who has lived in Houston (and other parts of Texas) in the past, and who still has a lot of family and friends down there, this makes me absolutely sick and livid. For all the awfulness of this storm, why would people make up lies about it. The truth is weird and horrible enough without making shit up. I have already seen some on social media that made me go hmm, but these are confirmed–the first round of fake photos of Harvey in Texas.

More fake Harvey news spreading debunked by the Washington Post and more to be found here. And here’s another article about fake photos going around. Check before you share, folks!

Here are some real photos of the devastation in Texas. Here are some more real photos.

If your heart leads you to help rather than spread misinformation, here’s one way to help.

I am updating as I see more relevant articles or iffy photos.

Fake (or just very poorly done) political polls tend to be more of an issue during election time, but they are a problem all the time. Politicians even quote them to support whatever policies they are pushing, but just because a politician mentions a poll doesn’t make it a legitimate poll (and politicians really should be more careful since they generally have a staff that can help them ferret out if a poll is any good–at least if they are above the local level).

Here’s a helpful article from poll experts FiveThirtyEight.com about How to Avoid Falling for a Fake Poll.

I also highly recommend their politics podcast, linked here.

A lot of clichés are annoying and stupid, but sometimes a cliché is too true. For example,  if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.  This is 100% accurate on Facebook with giveaways. If a restaurant is giving away a coupon for one meal, worth $50 or something, then it is more likely to be valid than a restaurant saying you can get burgers for life if you share their post. Sometimes it’s all a matter of how fabulous the giveaway or how many people they’re claiming will win it. If it’s a fabulous trip to the Caribbean and they’re giving it to everyone who shares the post, then you really should be skeptical. If it’s a cute hat they’re giving away to the first five people who shares the post, then that’s more realistic. I see people sharing giveaways all the time and I can spot the scam ones pretty quickly because they are usually ridiculous. Sometimes it’s not so much that they’re ridiculous but that the Facebook page is not a valid page for the company doing the giveaway. I’ve seen people sharing a link from a page called United. (period included) that they thought was United Airlines giving away flights.  The real United Airlines is just “United” on Facebook (no period), and it includes the blue checkmark to show it’s a verified page. Click here to see Facebook’s explanation of verified pages.

Some people will say, “What’s the harm in sharing if I might win big?” Well, first of all, it really annoys people who know it’s nonsense, but I know that’s not a deal breaker if you think there’s a chance of winning. More importantly, the Facebook pages with these scam giveaways are nefarious and we shouldn’t be spreading them on principle. And most importantly, they might be trying to steal your information or spread malware. Those are serious things you don’t want to deal with for any remote chance you’ll actually win something huge (and you won’t win).

Here’s a link with more details about these spammy giveaways and why we should avoid them instead of spreading them (you can still share the nice little ones about winning hats or cowboy boots, if the companies are legit).

Here’s a quick and easy example of how to discern fact from fiction in an article you see shared online. This is a link I happened to come across on Facebook that made me curious.  The headline is “BREAKING: Rosa Parks’ Daughter Praises Trump’s Response to Charlottesville.” I won’t give it a link because the story doesn’t deserve clicks, but you could probably find it by searching. I thought it was a provocative headline, but it didn’t seem very likely, so I checked it out.

First clue is the website is a random blog I’d never heard of (I know, funny criticism from a random blogger like myself but I don’t claim to have “BREAKING” news here). So I read further and looked for a source. There was actually a link to a source (if there’s not, I call bullshit pretty quickly). So I clicked the source and the source was another website I’d never heard of, so I checked for an “about” page. The “about” page said that the site “makes no guarantee that anything you find here will be based at all in reality. All posts should be considered satirical and all images photoshopped to look like something they’re not. It’s not you, it’s me.”  So that was an easy check that the original article I clicked on was totally fake. Also, my judgment is that the site is very bad at satire and writing–so I’m not giving them clicks, either. Had there been no “about” page, the ridiculousness of other articles on the site would have been another easy clue.

In addition to my very quick sleuthing (it really took very little time so don’t worry that it takes too long to check a source before sharing), I decided to also check on the person the story was about, because I didn’t remember hearing about children of Rosa Parks before.  A quick search revealed that Rosa Parks never had children, so there couldn’t possibly be a daughter of hers making breaking news. Another easy way to debunk a story.

So my tips from this example:

  1. Check the source. Sometimes this will lead you on a longer chase where one site links to a source, which leads to another source, and then another, until you find what may be the original.
  2. If you don’t find a source, that’s a red flag right there, unless it’s an original article by a real reporter who talked to real people.
  3. Check if the people or locations or whatever mentioned in the article actually exist. If they’re quoting someone notable, that person should be easy to find in other news articles. Some false articles will quote a professor at a particular university. If that person is not on staff at that university, there’s an obvious red flag.
  4. This is not really related to this particular “news” item, but another good tip is to check the date on the original source. Sometimes sites will link to really old news with a breaking news sort of headline like it’s something new.

Edited to add: Politifact has also debunked this article, but not at the time I first looked into it, so I checked on my own. Sometimes a quick check will show a site like Politifact has already debunked or confirmed a story, but if it’s a new thing they haven’t gotten to yet, it’s helpful to know how to do some checking yourself.