Truth-O-Meter

How do you know if something is true? When you read something on the internet, what makes you believe it’ is real? Do you instantly believe it? Do you conduct any research? We are told not to believe everything we read on the internet. We are warned. Yet, here we are a society hooked to the screen. Believing everything we see and hear.

Up until now I would have sworn to you that this: Exhibit A.

 

trumppeople
Exhibit A

Was actually true. Upon recent knowledge I have discovered I have had one to many embarrassing conversations with polite people, to kind to say otherwise.

Lindsay-Lohan-Facepalm-Gif

Fact checking has become a crucial and necessary habit. With a majority of our news coming from the online, the more imperative it becomes to make sure the facts are accurate. Falling victim to tales spread by trolls, bots, and other naive media users is easier than one might think. Fake news is circulated globally on a daily basis. Spreading lies, innocent people are registering as facts. It is important to understand how to verify a fact/story as true or false.

With that mindset in mind, I went on a hunt for an article to fact-check. I flipped through pages of news before I found something that sparked my interest.

“Republican candidate banned from Twitter over racist Meghan Markle post”

Let’s start with…

… background information.

Meghan Markle is the brand new fiance of British Royalty Prince Harry. The son of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Charles, Prince of Wales. He is fifth in line for the throne. The couple announced their engagement earlier this year, sparking up a lot of conversation. Meghan Markle will be the first biracial divorcee, to marry into the royal family.

Chedderman is Britain’s oldest modern skeleton. Recent DNA analysis has proven that Chedderman attained certain African features. For example, a darker skin complexion.

Cheddar-Man
Chedderman

Paul Nehlan is an american white nationalist and political candidate. He is currently running as the Republican primary for the US representative of Wisconsin.  

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Paul Nehlen

According to an article published on a news engine titled, Global News, Political candidate Paul Nehlan posted an offensive tweet of newly engaged, actress Meghan Markle, on his twitter account this past week. The controversial post allegedly lead to his twitter ban.

The article states that Nehlan tweeted,

a photoshopped image of Markle with the face of Cheddar Man — a dark-skinned man researchers say resembles what early Britons used to look like.

Racist Megan Pic

Nehlan captioned the tweet,

Honey, does this tie make my face look pale?

If the picture itself wasn’t disturbing enough.

This article immediately invoked an emotional reaction among many twitter and social media users. Myself included. I had to take a step back, and re examine the article with a clearer mindset. When articles trigger an emotional response, the more likely the article might be Fake News.

Move 1: Check For Previous Work

The internet has proven itself untrustworthy. The rise of Fake News has opened up a brand new genre of websites and articles. Websites like SnopesFactCheck.org, and Politifact, are credible, fact checking websites, that dedicate all there posts on proving news, true or false.

None of the websites covered any information about the incident. Further investigation is needed.

Move 2: Go Upstream to the Source

Since the article was fairly new, posted just yesterday, February 13th 2018. No credible fact checking websites have completed a post on it yet. Instead of submitting a request, and waiting for one of these websites to cover it, I can try to go upstream to find the original source. In this case, the original tweet. But if what the article says is true, this step might not be as easy as it seems. If Paul Nehlen was banned from twitter, will his page or tweet still be up?

I was unable to find the original tweet on Nehlan’s Twitter account. The article stated that the tweet was taken down, so my search was a long shot. I was able to find a screenshot of the tweet inside the article written by Abedi, but in this day and age, can you really be certain it was not photo shopped?

Touching base on whether or not Twitter banned Nehlan, his page seems to still be up and running. His most recent activity reported to be only seven hours ago. The article does not clarify when Nehlan was banned from twitter. But the article was posted at 4:17 pm yesterday night. Around sixteen hours ago. If Nehlan was supposedly banned from twitter sixteen hours ago. How does he have recent activity from seven hours ago? Did twitter not ban him?

The evidence seems to be compelling, but I can’t stop my search there. Twitter has yet to make statement on the matter. But Abedi did link some sources in her article that are worth checking out.

Paul Nehlan’s Facebook Page

I was beginning to have my doubts. The timeline wasn’t adding up, and I was unable to find the original post on Nehlan’s seemingly up and running Twitter page. But Abedi presented me with undeniable evidence. Straight from the horses mouth. She provided a link to Paul Nehlan’s Facebook Page.

Screenshot 2018-02-14 at 9.07.15 AM

As you can clearly see from the screenshot above, Nehlan posted about the incident on his personal Facebook page. He states,

A deliberately inflammatory article (that I’d argue is pure junk science) was published indicating Brits, and by extension, Americans, came from this Cheddar Man character. In response, I lampooned the article. If you like your free speech, you can keep your free speech (in my condescending Obama voice). Now are you paying attention to my #ShallNotCensor proposal?

Paul Nehlan did post a racist tweet of Meghan Markle, and he is quite proud of it. What is still uncertain is whether or not he was actually banned from twitter. Nehlan touches on the subject with his #ShallNotCensor. But that enough isn’t proof.

Upon further research conducted on Nehlan’s Facebook Page. I was able to find an official statement made by Nehlan, directly correlating with his Twitter ban.

Screenshot 2018-02-14 at 9.23.51 AM

The first paragraph of the statement states exactly what we were looking for,

Yesterday, Twitter banned me from its platform. I am the second GOP congressional candidate within one month to be banned for lawful speech from a major social media platform.

Results

Going upstream to the original source, provided us with all of the information we needed. We can now say with certainty that what Maham Abedi wrote in her article is true. Paul Nehlan was banned from Twitter for his racist photo-shopped post of Meghan Markle. She provided us with the necessary links, within the article, to find the information for ourselves. Paul Nehlan has caused an uproar on social media, and has brought up issues regarding free speech. Do you believe Twitter had a right to ban Paul Nehlan? The post was disturbing, and racist, but doesn’t Nehlan still have the right to free speech? This whole incident has brought up a huge controversy, and I am happy I can discuss my point of view freely, knowing that I have gotten my facts straight.

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{Draft} Republican Candidate Paul Nehlen Banned from Twitter after Racist Meghan Markle Post? {Draft}

 

According to Global News, a news engine I am not to familiar with. A republican candidate has been banned from twitter over a recent racist post. The article, “Republican candidate banned from Twitter over racist Meghan Markle post”, was written by Maham Abedi. Abedi claims that the politician tweeted,

a photoshopped image of Markle with the face of Cheddar Man — a dark-skinned man researchers say resembles what early Britons used to look like.

Racist Megan Pic

Nehlan captioned the tweet,

Honey, does this tie make my face look pale?

If the picture itself wasn’t disturbing enough.

This article immediately invoked an emotional reaction among many twitter and social media users. Myself included. I had to take a step back, and re examine the article with a clearer mindset. When articles trigger an emotional response, the more likely the article might be Fake News.

Move 1: Check For Previous Work

The internet has proven itself untrustworthy. The rise of Fake News has opened up a brand new genre of websites and articles. Websites like Snopes, FactCheck.org, and Politifact, are credible, fact checking websites, that dedicate all there posts on proving news, true or false.

Checking these credible websites for any recent posts on this article would be my first logical step. Why do all the work, if someone else has already done it for me. Fact Checking your sources can be completed in just one simple move.

I copy and pasted the title of the article, “Republican candidate banned from Twitter over racist Meghan Markle post” into each of the three Fact-Checking websites search engines. No results were found. Further investigation is needed.

Move 2: Go Upstream to the Source

Since the article was fairly new, posted just yesterday, February 13th 2018. No credible fact checking websites have completed a post on it yet. Instead of submitting a request, and waiting for one of these websites to cover it, I can try to go upstream to find the original source. In this case, the original tweet. But if what the article says is true, this step might not be as easy as it seems. If Paul Nehlen was banned from twitter, will his page or tweet still be up?

I was unable to find the original tweet on Nehlan’s Twitter account. The article stated that the tweet was taken down, so my search was a long shot. I was able to find a screenshot of the tweet inside the article written by Abedi, but in this day and age, can you really be certain it was not photo shopped?

Touching base on whether or not Twitter banned Nehlan, his page seems to still be up and running. His most recent activity reported to be only seven hours ago. The article does not clarify when Nehlan was banned from twitter. But the article was posted at 4:17 pm yesterday night. Around sixteen hours ago. If Nehlan was supposedly banned from twitter sixteen hours ago. How does he have recent activity from seven hours ago? Did twitter not ban him?

The evidence seems to be compelling, but I can’t stop my search there. Twitter has yet to make statement on the matter. But Abedi did link some sources in her article that are worth checking out.

Paul Nehlan’s Facebook Page

I was beginning to have my doubts. The timeline wasn’t adding up, and I was unable to find the original post on Nehlan’s seemingly up and running Twitter page. But Abedi presented me with undeniable evidence. Straight from the horses mouth. She provided a link to Paul Nehlan’s Facebook Page.

Screenshot 2018-02-14 at 9.07.15 AM

As you can clearly see from the screenshot above, Nehlan posted about the incident on his personal Facebook page. He states,

A deliberately inflammatory article (that I’d argue is pure junk science) was published indicating Brits, and by extension, Americans, came from this Cheddar Man character. In response, I lampooned the article. If you like your free speech, you can keep your free speech (in my condescending Obama voice). Now are you paying attention to my #ShallNotCensor proposal?

Paul Nehlan did post a racist tweet of Meghan Markle, and he is quite proud of it. What is still uncertain is whether or not he was actually banned from twitter. Nehlan touches on the subject with his #ShallNotCensor. But that enough isn’t proof.

Upon further research conducted on Nehlan’s Facebook Page. I was able to find an official statement made by Nehlan, directly correlating with his Twitter ban.

Screenshot 2018-02-14 at 9.23.51 AM

The first paragraph of the statement states exactly what we were looking for,

Yesterday, Twitter banned me from its platform. I am the second GOP congressional candidate within one month to be banned for lawful speech from a major social media platform.

Results

Going upstream to the original source, provided us with all of the information we needed. We can now say with certainty that what Maham Abedi wrote in her article is true. Paul Nehlan was banned from Twitter for his racist photo-shopped post of Meghan Markle. She provided us with the necessary links, within the article, to find the information for ourselves. Paul Nehlan has caused an uproar on social media, and has brought up issues regarding free speech. Do you believe Twitter had a right to ban Paul Nehlan? The post was disturbing, and racist, but doesn’t Nehlan still have the right to free speech? This whole incident has brought up a huge controversy, and I am happy I can discuss my point of view freely, knowing that I have gotten my facts straight.

Fact Check #5: What Needs Fact Checking?

  1. Did Donald Trump tell People magazine in 1998 that if he ever ran for president, he’d do it as a Republican because “they’re the dumbest group of voters in the country” and that he “could lie and they’d still eat it up”?trumppeople

    This was a statement stated in a popular meme circulating around social media. I have heard it used in many arguments for or against Donald Trump, and have even seen the meme used in a magazine article. Upon further research I am unable to find the original source. You would think a “fact” so widely discussed would be easy to locate with a simple google search. Is this popular meme just another example of Fake News? I think that this fact would be great to conduct a fact check on, since it has been a popular topic in recent social media. Something so widely talked about should be proven false or true. The meme even makes a statement on where the quote came from, “People Magazine”. A great starting point.

  2. Did NASA confirm that there will be 15 days of darkness on Earth in November?nasa

    This was another popular fact circulating social media. I feel like the main issue I had with my other Fact-Checking posts, was how ambiguous they were. Fact checking a whole article can be time consuming and can get confusing. It’s easier to prove one fact true or false. It will be easier to accomplish all four moves, and thoroughly explain why said fact, is true or false. The statement itself also claims where the information came from. This makes it easier to go upstream.

  3. Has the Food and Drug Administration announced that vaccines cause autism?vac

    People have been debating whether or not vaccinations cause autism for years. It is a widely discussed topic. Some parents choosing to opt out, and not vaccinate their children. A recent article, has been circulating Facebook, and other social media engines, claiming the Food and Drug Administration has made the official statement, vaccinations are linked to autism. There has been a lot of research conducted that states, not vaccinating your children is dangerous to not only their health, but societies. I feel like facts like this should immediately be checked. If this statement is untrue, then it can be very dangerous.

 

Fact-Check #4: Alcohol Provides Brain Health Benefits?

According to a web source, Medical News Today, a recent study has found evidence linking alcohol to specific brain health benefits. According to the article, a mouse study conducted by scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York has found evidence of,

drinking the equivalent to around 2.5 alcoholic drinks per day could reduce brain inflammation.

and,

It was also found to increase the function of the glymphatic system, which is responsible for removing waste products from the brain.

The article makes sure to specify the drink limit required to attain these benefits. Over exposure to alcohol can cause the exact opposite affect.

Going Upstreamalcohol1

The author of this recent article, Honor Whiteman, has made a lot of claims, basing this study conducted by the University of Rochester as his proof. An easy way to check to his claims is to go upstream and find the actual study.

The link provided to me by Whiteman, takes me directly to the original study, and the report of the study’s findings. Listed under the results heading I am able to accurately find the math and research behind each claim made, in Whiteman’s article.

For example. Whiteman stated,

It was also found to increase the function of the glymphatic system, which is responsible for removing waste products from the brain.

The original study states,

Acute exposure to small amounts of alcohol boosts glymphatic function

Placing right underneath that statement, all the math, observations, and research conducted to be able to make that claim. I could fact check all of the statements made about this study in Whiteman’s article, with the actual research.

After one simple step, I am able to prove this article trustworthy. When it comes to fact-checking you might not have to make all four moves all of the time. One move might give you all the information that you need.

Fact-Check #3: Fox News or Fake News?

The most recent presidential election created a whole new concept. No one can be trusted. Don’t believe anything from anyone. That means, don’t repost that Facebook status, or retweet that article link. You may fall victim to the dreaded Fake News.

fake news4

To eliminate/filter the amount of Fake News your brain registers, I have one quick and easy tip. DO NOT, and I repeat, DO NOT, trust everything you read on Social Media. The more emotional a post makes you, the more likely it is in need of a fact-check.

But what if even well known “trustworthy” news engines are being called into question? Becoming a little to biased. What then? Should we just assume all news is now fake? When all else fails, the answer is easy. Do your research. But if your specifically trying to test credibility, “reading laterally,” is the most logical option.

What Is Reading Laterally?

Michael A. Caulfield explains “reading laterally” pretty simply in his book, Web Literacy For Student Fact Checkers

Read laterally: Read laterally. Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). The truth is in the network.

A quick summary of what Caulfield is saying. Not every website is trust worthy. To be certain the website you are on is a credible source, read what other people are saying about them. Its like picking a best friend. A best friend is someone you want to be able to trust all your personal secrets with. Someone you can trust with valuable information. If five other people say that person is untrustworthy. You may debate on taking your friendship elsewhere. Think of a website as a best friend candidate. It doesn’t deserve your trust right away.

Now that we have a general understanding of what “reading laterally” means, it is time to demonstrate an example.

Fox News or Fake News

The recent presidential election has also caused a divide between which news station is an actual credible source. Each side throwing digs at the other. Social media has been making a lot of claims that Fox News is an unreliable, “fake news” creating source. So I decided to “read laterally” and make the decision for myself.

fake news 5

I began my search with, Wikipedia. I known unbiased web source. Beginning research with Wikipedia can be very helpful. They complete all the hard work for you. Providing you with links and references, to all of there information.

I mentioned earlier that News that provokes extreme emotion should most likely be fact-checked. Biased news often has the same characteristics of emotional news, evoking the same emotional response. Skimming through only two paragraphs of Wikipedia’s, Fox News information page, I found a very important fact.

The channel was created by Australian-American media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who hired former Republican Party media consultant and CNBC executive Roger Ailes as its founding CEO.

Roger Ailes, the founding CEO of Fox News is a former Republican Party media consultant. Just let that sink in. A number one complaint people have with Fox News is its bias. It has been said to pick and choose what news to broadcast based on it’s republican bias. After only 3 minutes worth of research I have found some truth to that statement.

Where did Wikipedia find this information? I find the link to Wikipedia’s statement within the same sentence. According to a New York Times article, published in 1996,

Many journalists believe Mr. Murdoch wants to offer a conservative alternative to what he views as liberal bias among traditional news purveyors. Reinforcing their belief is the fact that the new network’s chairman and chief executive is Roger Ailes, the well-known former Republican political strategist.

Wikipedia has not only supplied me with proof of their statement, but has also helped me with me “reading laterally” search. Upon further investigation, I have found out that during 1996, many journalists believed Fox News was created with underlying Republican bias.

Bias news can be just as bad as falling victim to fake news. If a news station is proved biased, it is not deemed a credible source. It is easy to try an filter your media to correlate with personal beliefs and views, but that can be very detrimental, giving a false sense of reality. It is important to remember to read laterally.

bias 1

 

Fact Check #2: “This man is about to launch himself in his homemade rocket to prove the Earth is flat”

When was the last time you physically read a newspaper. Wobbled outside, slippers and robe, half filled with morning coffee. When was the last time you turned the pages, inviting in the fresh scent of ink, jumping off the print. The soft hue of yellow warming your eye strain. Has it been awhile? When was the last time you skimmed through the sections, searching for trigger words, anything that may peak your interest. Maybe never? In the day and age of the Smart Phone, who pays for newspapers anymore? According to Pew Research Center, the answer is 23% of Americans. According to a recent study,

The percent of Americans who say they read a print newspaper the previous day continues to drop, falling 18 points over the last decade

People just aren’t reading the newspaper anymore! Why should they? With endless news articles and urgent headlines right there at our fingertips. News circles Social Media, feeding into political stances, indulging the masses with what they want to hear. Social Media has now become a hub, a modern newsstand, an area where most millennials, and most Americans are finding all of there News. But are these Social Media hubs

snopes-fake-newsreliable? Can we trust all of the articles, and data being circulated on these websites? Getting tired off all these rhetorical questions? Lets not forget the number one rule of the World Wide Web, “Don’t Trust Everything You Find on the Internet.”

Keeping a skeptical mind, I skimmed my Facebook, searching for recent trending posts. Hoping to find a bit of “fake news”. I stumbled across a surprisingly controversial topic. Looking to have a little fun with this whole experience, I stuck with it. I spent a lengthy part of my day discovering whether or not, “a man is about to launch himself in his homemade rocket to prove the earth is flat.”

In the year 2018, it worries me to know a group of individuals still troll the internet, adamantly believing the world is flat. After copious amounts of data, and statements generally agreed upon, made by a relative majority of people in the know. People still dispute. My immediate read of the headline, did not cause any shock. If people can still believe evolution is a myth, a flat earth isn’t that far fetched.

Mike Hughes is just your average Joe. Friendly, neighborhood 61 year old, limousine driver, trying to make a statement. A statement posted in an article. Written by, Avi Selk, published and posted on The Washington Post.

“It’ll shut the door on this ball earth,”

What an eloquent choice of words.

Before I can examine the rest of this particular article’s statements, I have to answer Fact-Checker question number one. Is the web page a reliable source? The answer is in fact true. The Washington Post is not to be confused with it’s cousin, The Huffington Post.  A mistake I had made starting this Fact-Check. I assumed going upstream would prove this article blasphemy, but my journey proved the exact opposite.

There is in fact a 61 year old man, working part time as a limo driver, part time ma

people-posting-false-claims-without-searching-if-the-source-us-reliable-but-thats-none-of-my-businesking deadly explosions. Attempting to prove the earth is flat, with his hand dandy Smart Phone.

The article itself can’t be discredited. But can one of there sources? Who is Mike Hughes, and why should his statements be validated?

Hughes has been recently gaining a lot of media attention. According to the article,

A flat-Earth GoFundMe subsequently raised nearly $8,000 for Hughes.

8,000 dollars to prove something that has already been proven incorrect. Does Hughes deserve the media attention he is getting? Is he an expert, in the know? Let’s check his credentials.

According to Wikipedia, (I can’t believe this man has become famous enough for Wikipedia).

“Mad” Mike Hughes is an American limo driver and daredevil known for attempting to fly in self-built rockets for the purpose of proving that the Earth is flat

As a twenty year old college student, attempting to get a better world view on life, I think I’ll take my scientific questions elsewhere, and my money. Hughes has been proven to not be an expert on the subject matter at hand. He has provided us with no evidence to believe his statements are nothing but false. I think I’ll trust Pythagoras on this one,

an Ionian Greek philosopher and the eponymous founder of the Pythagoreanism movement.

Who will you choose to trust?

pytho 1mike hughes

 

 

 

Fact-Check #1: “First Ever Evidence that Mosquitoes can be Trained”

I had finally made the switch to Android. After five miserable, well deserved years of Apple consistently screwing me over. I made the reluctant switch to the Galaxy Note 8. Upon finding out about the cool blue light filter, feature, noting the huge sized screen, I thought to myself, “finally a phone I can read on”. I immediately downloaded the “SMART News” application, determined to become more aware of what was going on in the big, world, around me. I felt proud, accomplished, until I got my first notification. A consistent harsh buzzing, vibrating right next to my ear, for a solid three seconds. Days of constant reminders, minute news. I had no idea how to turn it off. A problem I wouldn’t have had if I had stuck with my iPhone.

It became a game. Going to bed, wondering what article was going to wake me up next. Little ever interests me enough to stay awake. I scroll, and head right back to bed. But after days of napping, with no obligations, I was awoken at 3:00 a.m with urgent news.

“First Ever Evidence….Mosquitoes Can Be Trained.”

I read through the whole article, shocked and bewildered at the comparisons made between Mosquitoes and Dogs. Images of mosquitoes hopping and buzzing around on blue and red leashes, littered my mind. I was downloading all the new information as immediate fact.

turns out that slapping at a mosquito about to bite, the insect learns to associate that near – death encounter with your personal scent and avoid you in the future.

*new fact*

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were exposed to a 20-minute session of little bite-disturbing vibrations, similar in intensity to the reverberations that travel up an arm after a slap.

Riffell’s team found that these mosquitoes then avoided that scent for more than 24 hours afterward.

*new fact*

Mosquitoes were going to become my new talking point. “Hey did you know scientists found evidence that mosquitoes can be trained?” But did I really know that for a fact? Yeah I read it on a news application on my phone, but can that source be trusted as reliable? I didn’t even bother to read when and where the article was published. I had to stop in my tracks and retrace my steps. It was time to swim upstream, and gather my concrete facts.

So what did I already know?

  1.  The article was written by Michelle Z. Donahue.
  2. The article was published on January 25th, 2018, and posted on National Geographic’s website.
  3. National Geographic is considered a well trusted website by general agreement of people in the know. 
  4. Donahue references website, Current Biology.
  5. Donahue references University of Washington neuroecologist, Jeff Riffell

I already know that National Geographic is considered a trusted website, so if I wanted to, my “Fact-Check” could end there. But the author of the article provided us with links, and references, convenient enough, to at least check them out. The ease and simplicity of finding all this necessary information itself, is another clue, that the information itself, is in fact reliable.

The first reference Donahue gives us is the website, Current Biology. At first glance the website deems itself reliable. The article, and information presented is correctly cited, and provides us with the necessary links and references from scientific journals. The information provided from this site lines up with the information provided to us in Donahue’s article. According to Current Biology,

Training and testing to scents of humans and other host species showed that mosquitoes can adversely learn the scent of specific humans and single odor-ants, and learn to avoid the scent of rats.

Donahue did not directly state this quote, but summarized it, explaining the gist of the statement, “mosquitoes can be trained.”

The second reference Donahue provides us with, is the credentials of Jeff Riffel, a said to be, “University of Washington Nueroecologist,” posted on the University of Washington Department of Biology’s web page. Riffel’s posted credentials lead us to believe that he is a person “in the know”. If anyone should have an opinion on mosquitoes it’s going to be, Jeff Riffel.

My path upstream has lead me to the conclusion that there is in fact evidence that mosquitoes can be trained. Maybe my image of leashed up, hopping mosquitoes will come to life with in the next couple of years. Science is always evolving, and it’s important to keep in the loop. There are a lot of fake sites out there, trying to discredit or make up some brand new discovery. It is important to take the steps, to check the facts.