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.

 

Source: iStockphoto.com

I see this a lot on my Facebook feed–people sharing heartrending photos with “like and share for a prayer”…etc. Or “My dad said he would do this great thing if you share my photo! He doesn’t believe I can get a million likes!” Or “If you love Jesus, share this.”  It’s even worse when it really gets manipulative–implying only people who really care will share. Well, I’m a pretty empathetic person (in spite of my no bullshit stance here) but I’m not going to share anything that seems manipulative. Read this to learn why (other than just general crankiness with the manipulation).

There’s more reason to be angry about these posts other than just the emotional manipulation–such as when they exploit pictures of sick children without permission by those children or their parents. That’s sick and I hope my own friends can learn to avoid propping up like farmers.  Here’s one more helpful link about this problem. 

electionsHere is some helpful info about left-wing content-stealing sites (with the precaution that Alternet itself has a mixed factual history itself and I wouldn’t always share from it). When you are tempted to share from one of these extremely partisan and often content-stealing sites, I would urge you to look for the original story and share that instead of giving these sites more clicks. Just because they publish stories that cater to your side does not mean they are really on your side. They are likely just looking for clicks and shares and therefore more money from advertisers. I don’t mean there’s anything wrong with news sites making money, just that the money should go to news sites with reporters doing the actual work. If the Washington Post, for instance, breaks a big story, then they should get the links and clicks rather than a site like Occupy Democrats,  when they just copy over half the story and add a meme or outraged headline.

And here’s an article from BuzzFeed News about hyperpartisan political sites (from both sides of the political spectrum) and how often they publish false or misleading information (also with a precaution that I’m not a big fan of BuzzFeed as they also sensationalize).

From BuzzFeed:

The bottom line is that people who regularly consume information from these pages — especially those on the right — are being fed false or misleading information.

The nature of the falsehoods is important to note. They often take the form of claims and accusations against people, companies, police, movements such as Black Lives Matter, Muslims, or “liberals” or “conservatives” as a whole. They drive division and polarization. And in doing so, they generate massive Facebook engagement that brings more and more people to these pages and their websites and into the echo chamber of hyperpartisan media and beliefs.

I recognize the irony of me copying content about sites that copy content, but I am encouraging you to go ahead and click on the source links and learn more.

Truth
iStockphoto.com

Here’s a good article on How to Spot Truth in the Sea of Lies, Rumors, and Myths on the Internet.

Political memes are the worst for lies that spread like wildfire. I’ve seen them lying for both sides. For instance, both of these are lies from the last presidential election:  http://www.snopes.com/1998-trump-people-quote/ and http://www.snopes.com/hillary-clinton-stupid-quote/

Just take a moment to check. If you don’t have a moment to check, maybe you don’t really have the free time to be posting, anyway.  Go to the original source if you can. If you can’t, just google some more sources.  Check if you’re on a satire site.  Think about if the article/meme/blog post in question is just confirming your own bias and you’re not thinking it through.

I’m guilty of it, too, so I’m not saying I’m not. I’m saying let’s all be a little more careful.

Oh and can we try to be polite and not call each other repuglicans and libtards or other dehumanizing names?  We’re all human–except for the Twitter bots, of course.  We can all hate those.