Don’t Believe Everything You Read – Particularly Online

By Tracey Dowdy

Let’s consider this post a public service announcement. No less than eleven times this week, I’ve seen stories in my newsfeed that clearly fall into the ‘you-don’t-really-believe-that’s-true-do-you’ category.

One story told me that asparagus is the cure for cancer drug companies don’t want us to know about. Another purportedly shows Michelle Obama cursing the flag and her husband agreeing (supposedly lip-read and interpreted by an instructor from a school for the deaf and blind). And a third, harmless in comparison to the others, suggests that a planetary alignment this month will result in the moon appearing green for 90 minutes, an event that happens once every 420 years.

Most of us have been duped at least for a moment by something that’s popped up in our social media newsfeeds. Remember the one about Facebook starting to charge fees? Or the one with people posting their own copyright notice so Facebook couldn’t steal their images or posts? Maybe you bought the warning that you needed a privacy subscription so your photos wouldn’t go public. Some of these look totally legitimate, others not so much.

It’s an easy trap to fall into, and we’re more likely to repost stories that resonate with our values and support our beliefs. The bottom line is that the old adage “You can’t believe everything you read” still rings true.

Before you repost, take a minute to check the source. If it’s one of the sites below, spare yourself some awkwardness and don’t repost.

The Onion is the granddaddy of all fake news sites. With satirical headlines like “Woman Leaving Meeting Worried She Came Off As Too Competent” and “New Evidence Suggests Early Humans First Used Fire To Impress Friends,” most Onion stories aren’t hard to spot as fake. On the other hand, I remember outrage when an Onion story about the USDA introducing a brunch program exclusively for wealthy students was shared.

National Report and its former head writer Paul Horner are at the top of any list of fake news sites. Among their greatest hits is a story that the U.S. hired mercenaries to hit ISIS targets and that a teen was arrested over a “swatting” prank. While most National Report stories are relatively harmless – for example Whole Foods to Charge Cover at California Stores – their story about an Ebola outbreak caused a quarantine in Purdon, TX during the height of the virus scare.

Paul Horner moved on to the News Examiner after Facebook’s algorithms made it harder for National Report stories to be shared. Having learned his lesson, Horner now mixes real news with fake in order to skirt those pesky Facebook guidelines. The tricky part is that there’s no indication which is which – what’s real and what’s fiction – so beware of anything that can be traced back to the News Examiner.

Similarly, Newswatch28, now Newswatch 33, managed to beat the algorithms by mixing real news with fake. Again, there’s nothing on their site to indicate they’re satirical or posting bogus news stories. Stories include a suicide resulting from casting black actors in Star Wars and the FDA approving the sale of tranquilizer guns for use on children.

Following in the “sounds like a local news affiliate” name choice, Now8News stories are a little easier to spot because most of them are ridiculous: an old lady arrested for making cat fur coats or a couple arrested for running a meth-lab in the attic of a Wal Mart.

There are a lot more out there – Stuppid and Huzlers seem to give themselves away with their name as does The Satira Tribune – so sometimes simply taking a beat and looking at the source is all you need. Ultimately, if it seems too crazy to be true, it probably isn’t.

After all, Abraham Lincoln himself warned that you can’t believe everything you read online.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Comments:

  1. I blog quite often and I truly thank you for your
    content. This great aeticle has truly peaked my interest. I will take a notye oof
    yoour website and keep checking forr new details about once a week.
    I subscribed to your Feed too.

    Stop by my homepage: title loans (Ingrid)

  2. you’re in point of fact a good webmaster. The website loading velocity is amazing.

    It kind of feels that you’re doing any unique trick.
    In addition, The contents are masterwork. you have done a
    magnificent task in this topic!

  3. I love your blog.. verey nice colors & theme. Did youu designn
    this website yourself or did you hire someone to do itt for you?
    Plz answer bafk as I’m looking too construct my owwn blog andd would like to
    know where u got this from. thanks a lot

    My web-site …title loans (Collin)

  4. Everything iis very open with a very clear description of the
    challenges. It was really informative. Your website is useful.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Heree is my webb page :: title loans (Sherlyn)

  5. Instant Age Rewind Eraser Concealer ( คอนซีลเลอร์ ) , soft cushion head, easy to use, easy to spread, covers under the eyes, blemishes very well, but not heavy and the concealer texture is reasonably moist. Suitable for use on days that need a little extra coverage. More importantly, this concealer contains powerful extracts of goji berry and haloxyl, helping to brighten the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines.

    http://www.maybelline.co.th/face/concealer

  6. It’s remarkable in support of me to have a website, which is useful foor mmy know-how.
    thanks admin

    Look into my site; title loans (Isabell)

  7. Simply desire to say your article is as astounding. The
    clarity in your post is just excellent and i could assume you are an expert on this subject.
    Fine with your permission let me to grab your RSS feed
    to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the enjoyable work.

  8. My developer is trying to convince me to move to .net from PHP.

    I have always disliked the idea because of the costs.
    But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using WordPress on various websites for about a year and am
    nervous about switching to another platform. I have heard good things about blogengine.net.

    Is there a way I can transfer all my wordpress content into it?
    Any help would be really appreciated!

  9. I’m gone to say to my little brother, that he should also pay
    a quick visit this webpage on regular basis to obtain updated from
    neest news update.

    Feeel free to surf to my page: title loans (Kazuko)

  10. For hottest information you have to pay a quick visit world wide web and on web I found this
    web page as a finest site for most recent updates.

  11. Hey! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us so I came
    to look it over. I’m definitely enjoying the
    information. I’m book-marking and will be tweeting this to my
    followers! Terrific blog and terrific style and design.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.