4 Ways to Crack Down on Fake News and Bad Memes in Your Life

Just in time for Thanksgiving with the relatives!
Publish date:
November 21, 2016
memes, Politcs

My mom just sent me a friend request on Facebook, and I'm worried — not for her to see all the stuff I post on Facebook, because posting controls are your friend, and I don't really have anything to hide from my mom anyways, but because of this:


I know she'll probably friend the members of my family who post stuff from the RowdyRepublican (ew) Facebook page, which is almost exclusively bad memes and misleading videos, or the people that share Boston Tribune articles in earnest. I just don't want to have any more conversations where I have to point out that, no, the Obamas did not buy a vacation home in Dubai, and Donald Trump has not promised to legalize weed in all 50 states.

Google and Facebook have promised to crack down on fake news appearing on their platforms (though, like, that would have been nice BEFORE the election) by cutting off ad money and working with fact-checking groups. Despite these steps, Facebook has maintained that they "do not want to be arbiters of truth," so take them with a mountain of salt. In the meantime, there are a few ways to catch fake new, and call out your family, highschool friends, ex-book-club-members or whoever on spreading total bullshit.

Snopes: OK, total oldie-but-goodie. Snopes has moved beyond verifying or disproving New York City alligators-in-the-sewers urban legends, and brings the same in-depth and level headed reporting to viral fake news like "Gold Star Family Says They Were Booed on Flight to Retrieve Soldier's Body."

I particularly liked posting this Snopes link on a Facebook friend's wall after they shared the video in question. No, that protestor is not crying because her balloon was popped, she's crying because she got pepper spray in her eyes (and the high-pitched wailing was added in later).

PolitiFact: PolitiFact is a project of the Tampa Bay Times that fact-checks politician and pundit statements. When Reince Priebus said that Donald Trump won the election in an "electoral landslide," PolitiFact looked at other "landslide" elections to see how Donald Trump stacked up and found that, well, he doesn't, really. If your aunt brings up that "71% of doctors said Hillary's health was a serious concern," after complimenting her sweet potato casserole, you can say "That's 71% of doctors on the email list of a small conservative/libertarian medical group."

You can also look up specific politicians on PolitiFact to see how often they're outright lying, or just skewing the truth. I'll leave this here:

Factcheck.org: FactCheck recently put out a great article on how to spot fake news that had some tips even I didn't know–for instance, abc.com.co is not at all the same thing as abc.com, so always double check the URL.

Additionally, FactCheck operates similarly to PolitiFact, in that it verifies what politicians and pundits are saying. The Ask FactCheck section is great for debunking trending news stories, like Obama asking for a pension for his grandmother or the Clintons looting the White House.

Browser Extensions: I've come across two of these so far, and while they're both bare-bones and very new, they've been getting the job done for me.

The first one is Fake News Alert, which works within Chrome to flag fake news domains, based on a list from Melissa Zimdar. (If you really want a trip, read the negative reviews on the app from people really going to bat for Breitbart.) The big issue with this app is that it requires you actually click through to a domain in order to see that its been flagged, and we all know clicks = money.

The second one I've found is B.S. Detector. This works within Facebook to show you which sites are questionable without clicking through the think. The developer admits it's still "just a proof of concept at this point," but that "it works well enough."

Let me know in the comments if you've found any other sources for debunking fake news!