(CNN) — In the aftermath of dramatic events like Monday’s bombing attack at the Boston Marathon, it’s a truth of our times that millions of people will get early bits of news via social media.
To be sure, sites like Twitter and Facebook were used extensively by police, relief groups and governments to share important information about the bombings. But there’s also a more unfortunate side to how the Web responds to sudden bad news.
Sometimes accidentally and sometimes maliciously, false information gets loose. And in the rapid-fire digital echo chamber, it doesn’t take long to spread.
“On days like this, Twitter shows its best & worst: loads of info at huge speed, but often false & sometimes deliberately so,” said Mark Blank-Settle, of the BBC College of Journalism, in a post on the site.
As always, news discovered online (or anywhere else, really) should be double-checked before it’s passed along — especially in times of tragedy.
Here are some of the most widely shared untrue news items we’ve found on social media in the past 24 hours.
Man planned to propose, girlfriend killedReal photo, fake story
Among the many gripping images to emerge from the bombing’s aftermath was one of a man in a red shirt, kneeling on the ground cradling a woman in his arms. It went viral — with a heartbreaking, but fake, story attached.
“The man in the red shirt planned to propose to his girlfriend as he crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon, but she passed away” it reads. “Most of us will never experience this amount of emotional pain.”
The image is, in fact, real. It comes from the Boston Globe and was shared through Getty Images. But the agency’s caption merely describes the scene as a man comforting an injured woman at the finish line.
That didn’t stop it from making the rounds in a big way. A somewhat misleading Facebook account pretending to represent actor Will Ferrell (it calls itself a “parody” but has 385,000 likes) shared the post. By Tuesday morning, the picture had more than 448,000 “likes” and had been shared over 92,000 times.
But those demonizing the district have ignored one key fact that could keep the case from being the big test of religious freedom, student privacy, and government surveillance that some media reports are making it out to be. The school isn’t actually expelling—or suspending, as some outlets have it—Hernandez for refusing to wear the electronic tracking chip. District officials have repeatedly offered to let Hernandez come to school wearing an identification card from which the RFID chip and battery have been removed.
“We have to respect their religious beliefs,” district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez told me in a phone interview. “So we said, ‘All right, if this is objectionable to you because it violates your religious beliefs, then we will not put the RFID technology in the card. But you still have to wear the ID card like every other student at school.’ Daddy said no, and the student said no.” Gonzalez denied a report that the compromise came on the condition that Hernandez agree to stop criticizing the program and publicly support it. “That’s just untrue,” he said.
The really interesting question, which I discussed in a previous post, is whether the school’s RFID tracking program violates students’ privacy. But that might be a tough case to make in court, given that we’re talking about minors on school grounds. And the school’s compromise offer also takes the steam out of claims that it has punished or harassed Hernandez because of her refusal to be tracked. The school’s students use the ID chips to check in at the front door, buy lunch, and vote for the Homecoming king and queen, but Gonzalez said Hernandez could do all the same things with the chip removed. “We were very explicit with her and her family that all of the access and services that she would have gotten with RFID would still be available via this non-RFID card,” Gonzalez told me.
Police in Florida are trying to solve a mystery surrounding a man arrested with an enormous stash of fake military, law enforcement and medical paraphernalia including federal badges, police radios and even a full NASA flight suit and helmet.
In all, Roy Antigua had about 200 suspicious items when he was arrested this month, said James Steffens, chief of the New Port Richey Police Department.
The cache found in Antigua’s two homes and Cadillac Escalade included diplomatic license plates and dozens of fake identification cards from the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Defense, CIA and NASA. The suspect also had access badges to hospitals around Florida, doctor and nurse scrubs, a respiratory technician badge, police blue lights and access stickers to Coast Guard bases around Florida, Steffens said.
Authorities are wondering if Antigua, 52, was a frequent guest at costume parties or if he was hatching something sinister.
Analyst tells ‘Post’ high levels of radioactive poison reportedly found on Arafat’s belongings likely placed there much later.
The high levels of the radioactive poison polonium reportedly found on the belongings of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat indicate that the toxin was planted on them long after his death, a senior counterterrorism analyst told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.
Dr. Ely Karmon, of the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya’s Institute for Counterterrorism, is a specialist in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear terrorism.
Responding to an Al Jazeera report published Wednesday – which said that researchers at the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, discovered abnormally high levels of polonium on Arafat’s belongings – Karmon said that the half-life of the substance would make it impossible for polonium to have been discovered at such high levels if it had been used to kill Arafat eight years ago.
According to the Al Jazeera report, polonium has a half-life of 138 days, ‘meaning that half of the substance decays roughly every four-and-a-half months.’
And yet, eight years after Arafat’s death, the Swiss scientists reported finding polonium levels of 54 millibecquerels (mBq) and 180 millibecquerels on his belonging, considered to be high levels.
‘If it had been used for poisoning, minimal levels should be seen now. Yet much higher levels were found. Someone planted the polonium much later,’ Karmon said.
‘Because of the half-life of the substance, the conclusion is that the polonium is much more fresh,’ he added.
Karmon added that the Al Jazeera report raised additional unanswered questions. Referring to the fact that Arafat’s widow, Suha, provided the researchers with Arafat’s belongings, Karmon asked: ‘If Suha Arafat safeguarded these contaminated materials, why, after seven years, was she not poisoned too? She touched these things and Arafat in hospital.’
Ludwig called bullshit on this story when it first broke a couple of days ago.
BTW, the racist comments at this JPost article are Breitbart-strength batshit.
With those hot commodities in hand, Francesca Gino, Mike Norton (both professors at Harvard University), and I set about testing whether participants who wore fake products would feel and behave differently from those wearing authentic ones. If our participants felt that wearing fakes would broadcast (even to themselves) a less honorable self-image, we wondered whether they might start thinking of themselves as somewhat less honest. And with this tainted self-concept in mind, would they be more likely to continue down the road of dishonesty?
Using the lure of Chloé accessories, we enlisted many female MBA students for our experiment. We assigned each woman to one of three conditions: authentic, fake or no information. In the authentic condition, we told participants that they would be donning real Chloé designer sunglasses. In the fake condition, we told them that they would be wearing counterfeit sunglasses that looked identical to those made by Chloé (in actuality all the products we used were the real McCoy). Finally, in the no-information condition, we didn’t say anything about the authenticity of the sunglasses.
Once the women donned their sunglasses, we directed them to the hallway, where we asked them to look at different posters and out the windows so that they could later evaluate the quality and experience of looking through their sunglasses. Soon after, we called them into another room for another task.
In this task, the participants were given 20 sets of 12 numbers (3.42, 7.32 and so on), and they were asked to find in each set the two numbers that add up to 10. They had five minutes to solve as many as possible and were paid for each correct answer. We set up the test so that the women could cheat—report that they solved more sets than they did (after shredding their worksheet and all the evidence)—while allowing us to figure out who cheated and by how much (by rigging the shredders so that they only cut the sides of the paper).
Over the years we carried out many versions of this experiment, and we repeatedly find that a lot of people cheated by a few questions. This experiment was not different in this regard, but what was particularly interesting was the effect of wearing counterfeits. While “only” 30 percent of the participants in the authentic condition reported solving more matrices than they actually had, 74 percent of those in the fake condition reported solving more matrices than they actually had. These results gave rise to another interesting question. Did the presumed fakeness of the product make the women cheat more than they naturally would? Or did the genuine Chloé label make them behave more honestly than they would otherwise?
Palin: Obama Wants to Return to the ‘Days Before the Civil War’ When People Were Not Considered Equal
Sean Hannity decided he wasn’t done embarrassing himself after his ridiculous pimping of the latest Breitbart fake scandal from his previous show this Thursday evening and who better to bring in and talk about how President Obama supposedly was not “properly vetted” by the media before being elected president, than the un-vetted half-term quitter from Wasilla, Sarah Palin.
I would not recommend playing a drinking game with the word “radical” for this segment of Hannity’s interview with Palin, because if you’re doing a shot every time it comes out of one of their mouths, you might have to call an ambulance for blood alcohol poisoning by the time it’s over.
The racist blow horns were on full alert with this bit of mind-blowingly stupid hackery from Palin about our first black president when Hannity asked her what she thinks if heaven forbid their worst nightmare comes true and he’s reelected:
PALIN: Well, what we can glean from this is an understanding of why we are all on the road that we are on and it’s based on what went into his thinking, being surrounded by radicals. He is bringing us back Sean to days that… you can harken back to days before the Civil War, when unfortunately too many Americans mistakenly believed that not all men were created equal. And it was the Civil War that began the codification of the truth here in America… yes, we are equal and we all have equal opportunities, not based on the color of your skin.
Based on a fake story.
With allegations of communal cover-ups involving child sexual abuse dogging the haredi community over the past several years, it may not be much of a stretch for some readers to believe a gruesome story that appears in a new memoir about growing up in, and leaving, the Satmar community.
The story, recounted by Deborah Feldman in “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots” (Simon and Schuster), involves the alleged mutilation and murder of a boy by his own father — supposedly for masturbating — and the subsequent cover-up of the crime by Hatzolah, the community’s volunteer ambulance service.
The only problem, however, is that based on information obtained by The Jewish Week, the story seems not be true.
Even “The Forward,” which is a loud cheerleader of anything which is unfriendly to the Hasidic community, finds this “memoir” too much to swallow.
While everyone has the right to choose the lifestyle and faith they wish to lead, Ms. Feldman’s silly antics are embarrassing to those with more compelling, and more truthful stories to tell. There is much resentment against her, not only from the community that she so cheerfully maligns with sensational, made-up gossip, but from others who have more legitimate complaints, who feel that she has discredited them all.
There are people who have left the community after being molested, after suffering from bullying attacks, who have even lost dear friends to suicide due to doubts about sexual identity and anti-gay bullying. These are serious issues that need to be addressed, but this sensationally stupid fake “memoir” is making a mockery out of other people’s genuine pain as well as feeding genuine anti-Semitism.
Another question being raised, is, how did Ms. Feldman land a big fat publishing contract from Simon & Schuster and a gig on “The View” when other writers of greater talent and more compelling stories to tell have only piled up rejection slips? Who did she know and who did she blow?