“If a story feels so perfect for your personal or political viewpoints it is probably because someone is directly targeting you with that message.” - Alex Kasprak Click To Tweet
In this day and age, we are experiencing knowledge overload. There is information everywhere on the internet and social media. Add in the changes and hoaxes we are seeing pop up with the Coronavirus and it is harder than ever to decipher the truth. How do we research and check out this overload of information? In this episode, Alex and I talk about many strategies you can use to be more aware and make the best decisions for yourself and your family.
Snopes.com is a great resource for fact-checking information you receive. Snopes.com does the research, cites its sources, and encourages you to do your own research. Alex shares the history of Snopes.com and how the mission and company have grown into the information giant it is today.
Alex Kasprak is a science writer and investigative journalist at Snopes. Before joining Snopes, he wrote about science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and at BuzzFeed. His work has been featured in The Atlantic, Motherboard, New Scientist, and other venues. These days, his work generally centers around scientific misinformation and long-term investigative projects.
Alex’s scientific background is in geological sciences. He has a master’s degree from Brown University, where his work focused on reconstructing environmental changes during a major mass extinction event by extracting molecular clues trapped in 200 million-year-old rocks. This research was published in the journal Geology in April 2015.
In addition, Alex has a master's degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University. An adapted version of his Hopkins thesis essay was published online at The Atlantic under the title “The Desert Rock That Feeds the World” in November 2016.
When misinformation obscures the truth and readers don’t know what to trust, Snopes.com’s fact-checking and original, investigative reporting lights the way to evidence-based and contextualized analysis. We always document our sources so readers are empowered to do independent research and make up their own minds.“If somebody hears something that is troubling to them, there is a positive instinct to tell other people you care about.” - Alex Kasprak Click To Tweet
- [01:25] – Snopes has been around since 1994. It started as part of the Usenet Group dedicated to urban legends.
- [01:39] – David Mikkelson and his wife Barbara spun it off into Snopes.com.
- [02:04] – Now Snopes deals with social media misinformation, political stuff, and also investigative work. The mission and the size of the staff have grown over time.
- [03:46] – Social media allows information to travel much faster than it used to through emails and other things. The tactics are always changing how misinformation gets around.
- [04:40] – The most popular and most shared hoax on Snopes is the claim that posting something on your Facebook wall will legally prevent Facebook from using your material.
- [06:39] – The underlying theme to most any conspiracy based hoax is that the government doesn’t want us to know this and is hiding it from us.
- [08:52] – They often claim that the people debunking the myths are in cahoots with the people that are propagating the truth.
- [09:22] – Hoaxes are designed to trick someone and are generally viral.
- [09:53] – If a story feels too perfect for your personal or political viewpoints it is probably because someone is directly targeting you with that message.
- [10:25] – The first thing to ask is does this seem too good to be true.
- [11:20] – You can double-check most visual hoaxes by doing a reverse image search.
- [13:49] – Different hoaxes target different demographics.
- [13:53] – In general studies have suggested that older Americans are much more susceptible to online fake news than younger generations.
- [15:46] – Political misinformation is typically targeted at making the other side look bad or your side look good. It doesn’t have a strong demographic component.
- [17:46] – The motives for hoaxes can range anywhere from trying to be funny to financial motives.
- [18:41] – Financial motives are the most common motivator for intentional misinformation.
- [19:21] – Genuine innocent spreader heard something from somebody they thought was reliable and they shared it. It was wrong, but it went viral.
- [22:08] – One outlandish hoax about the Coronavirus is the notion that holding your breath for 10 seconds can diagnose it. This is the most ridiculous scientific claim Alex has heard. It defies logic that that would be a scientific test.
- [23:02] – Be careful of self-check and cure claims surrounding the Coronavirus. Another claim that sipping water every 15 minutes can cure the Coronavirus. Hydration is important, but you can not wash the virus down into your digestive tract to be destroyed.
- [25:41] – When there are medical claims we have to be really careful not to follow the advice of people that are not physicians, doctors or people that don’t know our existing medical conditions and situations. Don’t take random advice.
- [27:01] – Make sure to only read reputable sources like trusted news sources and governmental agencies.
- [29:23] – In times of uncertainty we have to just take a step back, not share much, and accept the uncertainty and realize that if someone is reporting something with certainty at that time they are probably misinformed.
- [30:01] With COVID-19 we are living in that uncertainty and doubt right now. Take a deep breath and don’t react out of haste.
- [30:48] In crisis situations it is best to just not share information. Even a good intention to share information that comes without a named source doesn’t need to be shared and can often make the situation worse.
- [31:20] Snopes.com is a credible news organization that you can check for information.
- [32:44] Snopes suggests you take the argument they have presented and check it out for yourself.
Thanks for joining us on Easy Prey. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and leave a nice review.
Links and Resources:
- Podcast Web Page
- Facebook Page
- Easy Prey on Instagram
- Easy Prey on Twitter
- Easy Prey on LinkedIn
- Easy Prey on YouTube
- Easy Prey on Pinterest
- Alex’s Website
- Alex on Facebook
- Alex on LinkedIn
- Alex on Twitter
- Alex on Snopes
- Captain Disillusion on YouTube
- Snopes on Facebook
- Snopes on Twitter
- Snopes on Instagram