A Lesson in How to Spot Fake News

Many thanks to ahawby for this tutorial. -promoted by desmoinesdem

A Facebook friend of mine reshared a “story” from a site entitled “Don’t Tread On Me”. If that source does not give you pause then you should read on.

The post showed a picture of a man in a white lab coat being arrested with the tag line: “Busted: Trusted Top Scientist Who ‘Collects Data On Global Warming’ Caught Manipulating Results.” Having been relatively well versed in the literature and science behind climate change for about 27 years, I checked it out. Feel free to do so yourself.

Now, the tips for determining if it is fake news.

Red flag the first, climate scientists do not often wear lab coats. There is little need for protection from the mess of computer modeling. Also, if it was a crime to “manipulate data” we would not have gerrymandering. Common sense in filtering the news goes a long way.

Red flag the second, consider the source, “American Journal”. I could not find much on it from Google, a rarity indeed (I found out later that it is because the site is brand new). The url is amjoreview.com. I am not sure why “review” is added but suspect it is all in an effort to give the fake news legitimacy. If you google “american journal” you will get American Journal of Medicine, etc. so it is brilliant to use the nomenclature of many important and often scientific journals to publish fake news about science.

Red flag the third, the site. It is a WordPress site that has a 2016 copyright. I later determined the domain was created December 7th, 2016. Asserting a copyright on the site is ironic since I could find little original content on it. Also, any site that has a “viral” link in its header menu is suspect. Sadly, as of this writing, this post had 7.6K shares.

Red flag the fourth, the ‘article’ source. It mentions nothing about an arrest, unlike the picture associated with the post. In format, it tries to read like any AP (that’s Associated Press) reprint which credits the AP then reprints the AP article. In this case the article, which is indented and in a different font to signal a quote of a source, starts “VIA|” telling the reader this is from VIA. I looked it up and could find no such entity that could be a source feed. (It is, however, the stock symbol for Viacom.) Why? Because the story is fake.

Red flag the fifth. The post claims there is a June 2016 Inspector General of the Department of Interior report debunking climate change. The funny thing is you can see for yourself there is no such report at the Office of the Inspector General Department of Interior site. Here it is: https://www.doioig.gov/. Also, if it was true there was a report, it would be easily cited by the author (OIG reports give month/day/year of issuance). The lack of specific citations in any post is always a red flag.

Red flag the sixth. The post further claims the “Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations” had additional hearings substantiating the myth of climate change. I could not find anything to support this. To be fair, however, the post did not identify which chamber of the legislature this subcommittee was in. It is true also that both chambers have their share of climate deniers and hearings may well have been held. But it is unlikely any subcommittee from either the House or the Senate took the time to discuss a report that does not exist.

Red flag the seventh. I wondered who the poster was so I searched the owner of the url and found it was a gentleman from Las Cruces, New Mexico with a facebook page he has failed to make private. You can find this information this easily enough at https://whois.icann.org/en. I am not so mean as to post his name or facebook link. Suffice it to say, he did not have many “Feel the Bern” posts. This could easily be seen as an ad hominem attack, in many ways it is, but all readers should know that the claims are not facts from some credible source called “American Journal” but instead are the deceptions/opinions of a single person.

Admittedly, this post was low hanging fruit, easily assailable on many levels. However, the same critical thinking and research should be used when examining the claim of any news source, including Bleeding Heartland. If something is true, there should be some verification of the thing independent of the words of the speaker/writer of the thing. Google makes it easily to follow up, we all should.

The final flag comes from reading real news and knowing that the overwhelming majority of scientists agree climate change is real and it’s rate is largely dictated by human activity. And, with a basic understanding of science applied to what you read, you will reach the same conclusion so you don’t have to rely too heavily on the people in white coats.

If you sincerely want to know the truth, it is there to be found. If you want to avoid cognitive dissonance and believe your world view is the only one….then get your views fed from a gentleman in Las Cruces, New Mexico or his liberal equivalent in Sante Fe.

  • Thank You

    I deal with these types of articles from my family. They sent this kind of stuff to me regularly or they posted them on Facebook and then I would have to post the links to why they are wrong. It has become so annoying. Also, the fact that Donald Trump has started calling everything “fake news” is only setting the American people up to only listen to what he tells them to listen to. All to familiar in history. This is a scary time for us all.

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