I have added a page to the site that lists links you can use to fact check things you read or hear. Click here to see it. It is also listed in the top menu as simply “Resources”.
Hoaxes Following Las Vegas Mass Shooting
It’s truly disgusting that people will make up hoaxes on the heels of a horrible tragedy, but it happens. Here’s one link from BuzzFeed with many hoaxes that already popped up in the wake of yesterday’s shooting in Las Vegas. You can see from this list (if you can bear to look at it) that these lies can be dangerous–people yesterday were accusing innocent people of being the shooter. Angry vigilantes might not see the correction soon enough and go after someone completely innocent.
And here is a link with info about Las Vegas shooting hoaxes and how to avoid spreading misinformation like this yourself (with tips much like what I’ve shared–no matter the source of information, the ways to check are the same).
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, but experts are doubtful (and ISIS has made false claims before–big surprise–murderers also lie) so I’m skeptical of this claim until we learn more. I’ve seen that it’s very possibly a false claim from multiple reliable sources.
Finally, here’s an excellent article on how to spot lies on social media after a mass shooting. Do a very little homework and you can avoid adding to the spread of lies.
Always check your sources–random Twitter accounts are not good sources. Many sites that claim to be news sources are not good sources. Check MediaBiasFactCheck.com for some help with discerning what are good sources or you can do like some of my friends do and ask me about a story you’re not sure about–if I have time I’ll help check. I’m lainiefig on Twitter. Please let friends know if they are spreading misinformation. It’s obvious Facebook and Twitter can’t catch it all.
Pop Quiz: How can you know this is fake news without even clicking?
- Amara Organics doesn’t sound like a site for a big TV scoop.
- It’s both a sponsored post and has a sensationalist headline.
- You can do a news search for Lena Headey and see no news like this from any other source.
- 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.
Quick Example of Debunking in Action
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Like-Farming on Facebook
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.
How to Spot Truth (Link)
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.
NPR Fact Check Advice
Here’s some advice from NPR on doing fact checking yourself:
Fake Or Real? How To Self-Check The News And Get The Facts
I do most of this, which is why I’m always annoying people on social media by telling them what they’re posting is false. Facts still matter and I want my friends to know the truth.
Do Not Share From These Sites
Here is a list of some sites we shouldn’t be sharing links to–these all happens to be from the left. Eventually we’ll list some from the right as well. I see shares from these ALL THE TIME, and I admittedly have occasionally liked a meme or story from these myself, though lately I’ve tried to avoid it and especially avoided passing them on.
These sites are not good sources for news. They are looking to get a ton of shares by playing to your bias or stoking your outrage with sensationalist headlines. Usually they don’t even contain original content but just repeat what other actual news sources are saying but dialed up to 11 on the outrage scale.
I would add to the list in the link above a website called Washington Journal, which I’ve seen shared a lot. I don’t consider it a quality news source. It’s sensationalized and designed to garner outrage on the left. I can’t precisely speak to how factual it is but I wouldn’t trust it until verified from a more reliable source. I will probably call it out when I see it. (Not to be confused with the C-SPAN show, Washington Journal, which is a whole different thing.)
A good place to double check if your source is valid is Media Bias/Fact Check.
Check Photos and Videos
Here are some ideas for checking photos and videos you see online.
A handy tool for photos is https://www.tineye.com where you can do a quick reverse image search. For an example, during the last presidential election, I saw a photo on my Facebook feed of Hillary Clinton shaking hands with Bin Laden. It’s not real. It looked photoshopped and it took very little time to find out it’s from a photoshop contest from a website. It’s o.k. to have differing viewpoints. It’s not o.k. to swallow misinformation without at least a quick check.
Check for altered video (you also can’t believe every video you see).
Submit photos for forensic analysis.
Another easy way to fact check a video is if you see a short excerpt or clip from a video that enrages you, maybe check for a longer version before you share your outrage. This comes from both sides of the political spectrum (and from outside politics). Here’s an example involving Trump supposedly ignoring a disabled child.
Look, if you think you don’t have time to double check before you share a photo or meme, maybe you don’t have time to share at all.
Here are some helpful links to check before you share a link on social media. If more people were careful before sharing, there would be fewer false stories spreading and fewer crappy so-called news sites gaining clicks. It will avoid you getting an annoying comment by someone like me who likes to fact check.
Before you share, here are ways to spot a BS news story, from Cracked.com.
Check where bias falls (if it’s not obvious) and whether a site is known for being factual. Personally I am not as bothered by a bit of bias as I am by bad and nonfactual reporting.