Why Old News Is Often Fake News
September 5, 2019 ·


We’ve all seen it on social media, especially Facebook. Some friend, or “friend,” or friend of a “friend,” posts a news story. Because it’s social media, the story is often selected (by human nature and algorithms) for its outrage factor. Amid the kitten videos and funny or cute memes, the news stories most likely to …

The Trump ‘Distraction’ Quasi-Conspiracy
August 22, 2019 · 1 


One common claim about Donald Trump is that he often says and does things not only for effect, but with the specific goal of distracting the public and news media from something else he wants to keep hidden. The claims have circulated for years, especially on social media; for example one Facebook post recently stated …

Epstein Death Conspiracies: Plausibility and Fuzzy Facts
August 14, 2019 · 1 


This past weekend, financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his New York jail cell while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. Within minutes of the news breaking, conspiracy theories circulated widely on social media, accusing a laundry list of people as playing some role in his death. One of them, President Trump himself, who has …

Why Chupacabra Reports Only Go Back to 1995
August 5, 2019


I recently came across a blog by a fellow cryptozoology writer, Nick Redfern, which began with a well-deserved rant about armchair debunkers. The shabby state of research into Fortean topics is widely acknowledged by skeptics—and some “believers” (for lack of a better word). In this particular case it was unnamed “debunkers” that he vented some …

Peal to Panic: Analysis of a False Abduction Rumor
August 5, 2019 · 1 


A mother recently claimed in a Facebook post that an eight-year-old girl had been abducted by two men in a white van in Felling, England, and asked those in her neighborhood to be on alert. It understandably caused alarm—despite the fact that the victim did not exist.  Rumors about the kidnapping were widely shared on …

Intuition Nearly Kills Hiker
July 19, 2019 · 1 


On May 9, 2019 yoga instructor Amanda Eller vanished while on a solo run through a forest reserve in Hawaii. She was found seventeen days after her disappearance; the temperate climate helped her to survive, and she told a harrowing tale of eating berries and drinking river water. The trouble began early, when Eller chose …

‘Bring Back Our Girls’ At 5: Boko Haram’s Forgotten Captives
July 3, 2019


It was a bold and brash attack on innocent girls that outraged the world and spawned unprecedented online activism: Boko Haram, an extremist Muslim group in Nigeria, abducted about 276 schoolgirls from a rural secondary school in the town of Chibok on April 14, 2014. Since that time about half have been recovered, and over …

Mass Shootings and Media Literacy
July 2, 2019 · 1 

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This is part three of a three-part series. You can read the rest of the series here. Mass shootings have captivated America for years with little progress in understanding the nature of the problem. The topic of mass shootings is fraught, not only with political agendas but also with rampant misinformation. Facile comparisons and snarky …

Misleading Memes as Cloaked Propaganda
June 21, 2019 · 1 


Soon after a university cheating scandal recently broke, a meme declared that “White privilege is REAL,” and gave three examples presumably illustrating that premise. The first shows a photo of actress Felicity Huffman and states that “Feds will seek 4 months jail time for Felicity Huffman for bribing her daughter into college.” This is contrasted …

The ‘FBI Bigfoot Investigation’: Where’s the Beef?
June 7, 2019


Breathless headlines earlier this week referred to the “FBI Investigating Bigfoot,” a clickbaity phrase if ever social media saw one, along with the promise that newly-declassified FBI files shed light on the mystery. As intriguing and sensational as it sounds, it turns out to be much ado about nothing. I’ll summarize the story, but there’s …