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.

Do you ever wonder why I get so passionate about fake news stories, false memes, bad science, and myths? Sometimes I hear statements like, “Well, it definitely could be true.” Or “Even if it’s not true it’s a good story.”  NOPE.  First of all, truth matters. Facts matter. I find it upsetting to see people spreading false stories either from the right or the left. Of course, I have a bias, but I will fact check anyone, even if they might share my general bias (my friends can attest to this).

Second of all, fake news can have horrible consequences. There’s a story about that in today’s The Daily podcast, which is produced by the New York Times. It’s a fascinating and disturbing story of one fake news story and its awful consequences. It is important to check your sources and be careful what information you spread. This story shows why. Click here for the story from The Daily.

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’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.

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.

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.

 

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.

 

Dropped his jaw
iStockphoto.com

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.

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