Independent Fact Checking
Fake News or Truthful Reporting?
A Review of 10 Factual Claims that Went Viral in 2020
Oftentimes it is difficult to determine what online factual claims are truthful or false. A variety of fact checking sites have developed over the years to combat the spread of misinformation. In February of 2020, the International Society for Technology in Education published a “Top 10 list of fact-and bias- checking sites” for teachers to use to help students check their facts. https://www.iste.org/explore/Digital-and-media-literacy/Top-10-sites-to-help-students-check-their-facts
Four of the more respected sites include the following:
Snopes.com https://www.snopes.com/ is an independent site owned by Snopes Media Group. Started in 1994, it is the oldest and largest fact checking site online. Every fact check is labeled with one of 14 ratings such as True, Mostly True, False, Mostly False, Mixture of truth and falsity, Correct Attribution, Misattributed, Miscaptioned, Unproven, Outdated, Satire, Scam, Legend and Lost Legend.
FactCheck.org https://www.factcheck.org/ is a nonpartisan, nonprofit project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The organization monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by the president, top administration officials and candidates for federal office. The organization’s numerous fact checkers write articles about what is said by the aforementioned persons if they determine the statements made are false or misleading. FactCheck.org is one of several organizations which partners with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network. It has published a guide on how to flag suspicious stories on Facebook and an alphabetical listing of websites that publish or have published bogus content.
Politifact.com https://www.politifact.com/ is a Pulitzer Prize winning website owned by the nonprofit Poynter Institute For Media Studies, which also owns the Tampa Bay Times newspaper. The site uses a “Truth-O-Meter,” which rates factual statements as True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire, which is where a statement is not only inaccurate, but makes a ridiculous claim).
The Washington Post Fact Checker https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/ is written by award-winning Post writer Glenn Kessler and three other Post journalists. It has been a permanent feature of the Washington Post since 2011 and has received numerous awards for its articles. It’s purpose is to “truth squad” the factual statements of political figures on issues of great importance. It is not an opinion-checking operation and employs a “reasonable person” standard on reaching conclusions about the accuracy of a given factual statement. The site labels each false statement as a one, two, three of four Pinocchio’s depending on the severity of the applicable omission, exaggeration or falsehood. The definitions for the Pinocchio’s may be found at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/01/07/about-fact-checker/
Below are 10 factual claims that went viral on social media in 2020 that were analyzed by Snopes.com. See if you can correctly spot the fake news from the real news.
Claim No. 1:
Joseph Buttigieg, the father of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, was a "Marxist professor" who "lauded" and "spoke fondly" of "The Communist Manifesto" written by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. Washington Examiner (February 10, 2020) available at http://archive.is/pbIM2
TRUE. See https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/buttigieg-father-marxist/ for analysis and basis for rating.
Claim No. 2:
A traveler from Beijing was caught at Dulles International Airport with a suitcase full of dead birds that the person tried to disguise as pet food. The Daily Wire (Feb. 11, 2020) available at https://www.dailywire.com/news/suitcase-full-of-dead-birds-from-china-intercepted- at-virginia-airport
A MIXTURE OF TRUE AND FALSE INFORMATION: See https://www.snopes.com/fact- check/suitcase-dead-birds-seized/ for analysis and basis for rating.
Claim No. 3:
Officials are warning that popping bubble wrap from China could expose one to coronavirus. North Carolina Breaking News Facebook page (Feb. 10, 2020)
SATIRE, although the article is not labeled as such. The “About” block of the Facebook page describes the contents of the page as being humorous and satirical in nature. See https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/china-bubble-wrap-virus/ for analysis and basis for rating.
Claim No 4:
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was arrested when he was 16 years old for killing several dogs. February, 2020 @Comrade Crow Twitter account at https://twitter.com/ComradeCrow?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed% 7Ctwterm%5E1226182627020988418&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.snopes.com%2Ff act-check%2Fbuttigieg-dogs-clipping%2F
FALSE. See https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/buttigieg-dogs-clipping/ for analysis and basis of rating.
Claim No. 5:
Chinese officials are seeking approval to kill over 20,000 coronavirus patients in an attempt to contain the disease. Website AB-TC (Feb. 5, 2020) available at http://archive.ph/4bUue
FALSE. See https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/china-kill-coronavirus-patients/ for analysis and basis of rating.
Claim No. 6:
HealthCare.gov, otherwise known as the "Obamacare" website, cost $5 billion. @realDonaldTrump (Feb. 4, 2020) available at https://www.snopes.com/tachyon/2020/02/TrumpObamacareWebsite.png
FALSE. See https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/obamacare-website-5-billion/ for analysis and basis for rating.
Claim No. 7:
The Chinese government is building a hospital in 10 days to deal with the new coronavirus. New York Times (Feb. 3, 2020) available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/03/world/asia/coronavirus-wuhan-hospital.html
TRUE. See https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/china-hospital-10-days/ for analysis and basis for rating.
Claim No 8:
President Trump congratulated the wrong state for the Chiefs' 2020 Super Bowl win. @realDonaldTrump (feb. 2, 2020) available at cdn.factba.se/realdonaldtrump-twitter/1224169575287123969.jpg
TRUE. See https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/trump-kansas-city-tweet/ for analysis and basis for rating.
Claim No. 9:
U.S. Health experts predicted the new coronavirus could kill 65 million people. Business insider as reported on Yahoo News (January 24, 2020) available at https://news.yahoo.com/health- experts-issued-ominous-warning-170400102.html?guccounter=1
FALSE. See https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/coronavirus-65-million-people/ for analysis and basis for rating.
Claim No. 10:
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden doesn’t consider drunk driving a felony. Washington Examiner (January 20, 2020) available at https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/joe-biden-i-dont-count-drunk-driving-as- a-felony
CORRECT ATTRIBUTION. See https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/biden-says-dui-not- felony/ for analysis and basis for rating.