Where do so many crazy conspiracy theories and nonsense stories originate on the internet? Click here for a good article on Sophos about the sources for a lot of insanity that seeps into social media and the rest of the web from weird fringe communities. You may not ever tiptoe into those corners of the internet, but their creepy conspiracy theories may affect you anyway. Hat tip to my friend James Hofsiss for sending me this link.

There’s more than just fake news out there, there are also Twitter bots and fake product reviews. I have a couple links to help with both of these.

First, if you see a suspicious Twitter account (suspicious maybe because all it does is post weird political memes 24/7, for example), you can check it at Botometer. It can tell you how probable it is that a particular account is a bot rather than a fellow human. It can also check followers (of your own or another account) to see which might be more likely to be bots. I don’t know how practical it is for large-scale bot-detecting, but it’s a fun little tool if you see an account you think might be fake.

Another handy website is Fakespot. Fakespot can tell you how reliable the reviews for a particular product is. It covers Amazon, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and the Apple App store. So, for instance, if you are searching for bluetooth headphones on Amazon, you might, like me, sort the results by the highest rating. Then the top of the list is a brand you’ve never heard of, so you can plug it into Fakespot and find out if those reviews are really reliable. If it looks like the assessment below, then you know you probably need to keep looking:

fakespot

I’ve noticed that electronics (especially those with brand names I’ve never heard in my life) are especially notorious for fake reviews.

If you see results more like this, though, you know the reviews are more legit:

fakespot2

To learn more about how it works, check out their About Us page.

 

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.

Russia
iStockphoto.com

Everyone knows by now that Russia was very successful in getting Americans to suck up fake stories and in just steering Americans toward the trending topics they wanted us to pay attention to in the last presidential election. They used their own propaganda sites as well as armies of bots and trolls on social media. Well, here’s a site dedicated to tracking their propaganda work in real time.

To read more about it, click here for an article on Business Insider.