One of the more mind-boggling bad posting decisions I have ever seen came from Congressman John Fleming (R-LA), who actually thought that an Onion story, titled, “Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex,” was real:
This is a high profile example, but there are plenty more. Elected officials are no different than anyone else – we frequently see a post that looks interesting and share the information, only to discover that it was inaccurate. The original poster winds up looking foolish and uninformed.
It’s easy to make an error like this, but there are a few ways that you can combat accidentally posting a story that just sounds too goofy to be true. Here are some ways to prevent yourself from making this error:
1) Train yourself – Does it sound too good or too outrageous to be true? Someone in Congressman Flemming’s office should have realized that there is no way that a Planned Parenthood clinic that contained “900,000-square-foot facility has more than 2,000 rooms dedicated to the abortion procedure” was real. Indeed, if something sounds too goofy to be true, think before posting. Even the most outrageous of commenters usually have some things that they don’t say, and it’s always best to double check a story, from multiple sources, before you post it to your own social media outlets.
2) Copy and paste into Google: See something that looks goofy? Just copy and paste the exact text into Google. My experience in doing this has been that doing such a copy and paste will frequently lead you directly to a site that will debunk whatever goofy story is being promulgated.
3) Check the source: Click on the link that contains the story; don’t just blindly post. Doing so will frequently point you to obvious signs of parody or crazy people on the other end of the website. One caution with this: If a link looks like a virus (“You wouldn’t believe what this girl’s Dad caught her doing on her webcam!”), do NOT click, as that could expose you to a virus.
4) Check the comments: One of the positive trends I have noticed on crazy, patently untrue stories is an increase of people who say, “This is a hoax – check out this link for more info.” A quick skim through the comments section may reveal the truth about a story.
5) Snopes.com: If all else fails, check out Snopes, one of the Internet’s leading sources of cutting through lies. It keeps track of stories that circulate around the web and posts the truth behind them. It also has a “Hot 25” section that details the heaviest trending lies, as well as a search function.
Any other tips to add? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to the Email newsletter.