The Internet is so easy to use – and so full of people who want to prove that they know more than anybody else – that there is practically no excuse for ignorance these days. There are many ways to stay informed about pretty much anything. You have Google, Yahoo, your e-mail inbox, and your Facebook News Feed, among others. Why, if it weren’t for those informative images floating around the Internet, we never would have known that eating chicken wings can cause ovarian cysts. Or that people can actually drug you (and do horrible things to you) just by handing you a card dipped in burundanga, which is really powerful stuff. Or that Barack Obama was actually endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.
Wait, what’s that? Those aren’t true at all? But friends on my News Feed shared them; they HAVE to be true, right? Well, as they say, think before you click. In cases like these, it’s best to do a bit of fact-checking before you click thatShare button. Here are five websites that are really helpful when it comes to filtering the news you can Share on your profile from the “news” that you should just Hide.
Snopes.com is by far one of the best rumor-squashing websites around. It has a simple layout, it’s organized and frequently updated, and it has a decent search function. Named after a family of characters from William Faulkner’s novels, the website has been disambiguating confusing matters and debunking ridiculous rumors since 2005. The site also features a message board, where users can post pictures and stories for validation purposes.
For example, you may or may not have heard the one about Barack Obama creating a program for establishing free phone service providers for welfare recipients. It’s not exactly true, but not completely false, either: a federal program established long before the Obama administration subsidizes telephone services for low-income beneficiaries. In cases like that where it’s hard to immediately classify something as a lie or a half-truth, websites like Snopes.com help by providing detailed information, even managing to trace the roots of the rumors in most (if not all) instances.
FactCheck.org is a great online resource for people who want to clarify or investigate various claims by (or stories about) U.S. politicians. Marketing itself as a “nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics”, the site was launched in 2003 and has since received awards and recognition from various institutions (such as TIME Magazine and the Webby Awards) for its role in making political journalism more accessible and credible. It even has an FAQ page dedicated to Internet rumors, listing them down, debunking them, and providing links to more detailed explanations for each rumor.
The Straight Dope started out as a column in the Reader in 1973. Written by Cecil Adams (billed as “the world’s smartest human”) and illustrated by Slug Signorino, the column was and still is dedicated to “fighting ignorance”, and is currently being published in newspapers across the U.S. and Canada. Using a distinctly abrasive style of humor, Adams answers questions sent in by readers, displaying remarkably broad knowledge about a variety of subjects. The author deals strictly with factual questions and, unlike other columnists, does not dispense life advice. The website currently houses a complete archive of Adams’s columns, easily navigated using the site’s built-in search function. Over the years, Adams has answered a rather impressive set of questions, ranging from the oddly specific to the downright absurd.
TruthOrFiction.com specializes in junking and demystifying Internet rumors, e-mail hoaxes and urban legends. Don’t let its simple, archaic layout fool you; it’s not only neatly categorized, it’s also very much up to date. Heck, it even has a guide on how to identify eRumors. It doesn’t stop at rumor disambiguation, either – it has a special section on viruses, divided into two categories (Virus Information and Virus Protection).
At this rate, the only thing left to do is to put up an online search engine that could track down and delete every single “1 Like = 1 Respect” post on Facebook. Ahem.