Working in the online world can be a bit of a minefield — the web is full of fakes, frauds and hoaxes. Sorting through them all can be equally frustrating and entertaining. Global News spends a lot of time verifying online material, as do sites like Storyful (some even read through reams of documents, like the Verification Handbook, explaining how). What better thing to write a weekly column about?
Here’s this week’s edition of real and fake stuff on the web (and here’s even more fake stuff from the past month).
Hillary had a Confederate flag?
Notice what’s above the shoulder of Hillary Clinton (Rodham at the time) in this picture:
The image started making the rounds after it was tweeted by Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative political pundit.
Here’s the real picture, a Getty Images shot from 1969.
It was a shoot at Wellesley College where Clinton discussed student protests.
Jay and Bey buying rights?
According to some tabloids, power couple Jay-Z and Beyonce were trying to buy the rights to the Confederate flag, purportedly to ensure that no one could ever use it again.
The story originated on Newswatch33, a fake news site.
The site reported that the couple’s “lawyer” Ralph Hammerstein said:
“If my clients are successful, purchasing the rights would mean anyone who wants to produce merchandise using the Confederate flag would have to get permission from Mr and Mrs Carter.”
Metro updated its story on Wednesday. “But thanks to Reddit, we soon realized this news was a little too good to be true,” said Metro.
When it’s too good to be true, it usually is.
Relentlessly gay hoax?
In June, a Baltimore woman was making headlines for receiving a homophobic letter at her home complaining that her yard was “relentlessly gay.”
Reporters went to Julie Baker’s home to get a look at the yard for themselves, and many news outlets covered the story, including Global News.
Baker soon set up a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $5000 to make her home “even more relentlessly gay.”
She raised $43,000 before shutting down the campaign, saying on the page, “I just learned moments ago that I could turn off the donations, and I am doing so because there is plenty, more than plenty, above and beyond the goal.”
But some users noticed something else on the page: similarities between the random capitalization of letters on her GoFundMe page and the original letter.
Note the erroneous capitalization of words like “Others, “Forced” and “Respect.”
Compare that to the random capitalization of “Home,” “More,” “Relent” and “Hatred.”
Users believed this proved the letter was a hoax.
“I don’t think I’m the only person on the planet that has ever randomly capitalized things,” she said. “I’ve seen that around and if people want to believe that, that’s fine, I don’t care. I don’t know why people want to be negative.”
While some media reports said that police were unable to obtain the letter because Baker no longer had it, Baltimore police confirmed to Global News that the letter was in evidence.
“We are aware of this case and currently have an open/active investigation into the matter,” said Baltimore County Police Department Captain Christopher M. Kelly in an email to Global News.
As for the GoFundMe campaign itself, all the company would tell Global News was that “this campaign is currently under review,” according to Kelsea Little, the company’s media director.
She said that privacy concerns prevented her from giving any more details, but that any donors who have questions about their donations should contact the company.
A website was also created on June 17 called RelentlesslyGay.com that featured blogs about Baker, among other things.
Recently, all articles about Baker were removed, however.
Global News tried multiple times to speak to Baker but she was unavailable for comment.
A snake fake
This image of a giant snake in Texas made the rounds on social media recently:
Even some news outlets picked up the story, but soon had to retract it when wildlife experts weighed in.
The photo is believe to be real, but according to Texas wildlife expert Andy Gluesenkamp, the photo exaggerates the size of the snake, which is large, but not more than four feet long.
“That’s how you get photos of your cousin squishing the Leaning Tower of Pisa,” he told mysanantonio.com. “We often associate size with the amount of fear we felt — the size of the snake goes hand in hand with our fear and lack of understanding.”