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Democracy

It's easy to be duped by online hoaxes — so we spoke with an expert at spotting fake news.

Being able to tell truth from lies is more important than ever.

fake news, experts, social media, fact checking
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It's getting harder and harder to tell.

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"Fake news" is more than just the phrase the president uses to brush aside stories he doesn't like. It's a real thing, and something we should all be on the lookout for.

Below is an image of Parkland student Emma González tearing up a copy of the U.S. Constitution that went viral in 2018, sending some corners of social media into a frenzy.



There was one problem, however: It was totally fake.

The actual photo came from a Teen Vogue video shoot featuring her and some of the other Parkland students. In the real clip, González is seen tearing up a paper shooting target.

fake news, Teen Vogue, gun rights, activism

Teen Vogue photo shoot goes viral.

linked image from snopes.com

The fact-check was swift, but a lot of damage was done, as the altered image continued making the rounds.

It's easy to be duped by online hoaxes — so we spoke with someone whose job it was to spot them every day.

At the time of this incident, managing editor Brooke Binkowski wrestled with the importance of truth and figuring out how to stop the spread of hoaxes every day for the highly trusted fact-checking website Snopes.

fact checking, fake news, urban legends, story, news topics

Snopes fact checks urban legends.

www.snopes.com

The site, launched in 1994, began as a collection of fact-checks on some of the internet's early urban legends. Wanted to find out whether or not that story about the killer with a hook for a hand was true? Snopes had you covered. Needed to know whether your favorite brand of bubble gum is filled with spider eggs? The answer was just one click away.

As the site evolved its taken on more serious topics, online hoaxes, and "fake news." Did Donald Trump wade into the waters of a flooded Texas city to save two cats from drowning after Hurricane Harvey? (No.) Did Barack Obama congratulate Vladimir Putin on his 2012 electoral victory? (Yes.)

Snopes is often cited alongside FactCheck.org and PolitiFact as some of the best, most accurate, and bias-free fact-checking websites in the world, even earning it a partnership with Facebook.

Binkowski spoke with Upworthy about how to deal with increasingly sophisticated hoaxes we all encounter online (and gave us a few behind-the-scenes secrets about how the people at Snopes do what they do best).

The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Why does the truth matter, and what harm is there in sharing fake stories?

The truth matters because without being able to agree on the most basic facts, there is no democracy. Democracy depends on an informed, educated populace in order to survive. To actively suppress curiosity or obscure facts is to actively suppress democratic norms.

When you share fake or misleading stories, first of all, don't beat yourself up about it if you were trying not to! We all fall for it. Some of it is extremely convincing.

I strongly believe that the onus should not be on the individual to sift through all the garbage to find good, vetted news on top of every other thing they have going on in their life, as I hear many suggest — that's why journalism exists. I think people are overall extremely smart and crave information, but without vetted and transparent information, they fall for conspiracy theorizing.

That's what propaganda and disinformation seize on. If you repeat that pattern across a country, it dramatically erodes these democratic norms. Plus, have you ever tried to talk to a really entrenched conspiracy theorist?

So I would be as mindful as you can about the sources of stories and try your best not to share disinformation — and if you do, I would try to be upfront about it and delete it so that it does not spread.

Right now is a crucial time to be mindful, even though I just said the onus shouldn't be on the individual. It shouldn't, but we simply don't have enough working journalists to go around right now, because our industry has been allowed to collapse in the name of executive profit.

Can you walk us through how Snopes fact-checks a story?

We don't have any one specific way that we fact-check a story — there's no real formula for doing so. A lot of what we do is so disappointing when I describe it to people, because it's not magic. It's "just" journalism.

I try to give my writers time and space to do the research that they need to do, although sometimes it's a little difficult when we have "conspiracizing" from all sides. So sometimes, one of us will have to head to the library to pull books or go over to the local university to look through papers on campus.

A lot of the time we do old-fashioned reporting. Our staff is all over the United States and they know their stuff, so I'll take advantage of that and send them out on the field sometimes. We also, of course, know the repeat fake-news and satire offenders, so that makes it easy, because we can save a lot of time just by noting that they have an all-purpose disclaimer buried somewhere on their site. Sometimes we do photo or video forensics and FOIA requests (not that we get a lot of those answered, hahaha).


We try to be as thorough and as transparent with our work as possible, which is why we have a source list at the bottom of each page and maybe describe our methodology in a bit more detail than we should — but that's how we all roll.

Which is also why, on a side note, I find the conspiracy theories about us a bit puzzling. We're really easy to track down online, we list all our sources, and we try to be as open as humanly possible without also being boring about our methodology.

And yet people still think we're part of a grand conspiracy. I'm still waiting for my check from George Soros/the Lizard People/the Clinton Foundation, though. It's been, like, 20 years!

...OK, if you're a conspiracy theorist reading that last sentence, that's a joke. I already got my checks.

No, no, I'm sorry. I just can't stop myself.

Photo via Teen Vogue, illustration by Tatiana Cardenas/Upworthy.

What can regular, everyday people do to avoid hoaxes and "fake news?"

My best tip that I can possible give readers is this: Disinformation and propaganda classically take hold by using emotional appeals. That is why what Cambridge Analytica did should be viewed through that lens.

One of the more sinister things that I have read that they did, in my opinion (among other things I'm sure that no one yet knows), was track people who were highly susceptible to authoritarianism, then flood them with violent imagery that was invisible to everyone else on social media, so that they were always in a state of fear and emotional arousal and highly susceptible to an authoritarian message.

That's the type of person propaganda historically targets anyway — those who feel out of step with society and have strong tendencies toward authoritarianism — but now, groups like Cambridge Analytica are doing it faster and more surgically.

If you're reading, viewing, or listening to a story that's flooding you with high emotion, negative or positive — whether it's fear, rage, schadenfreude, amusement at how gullible everyone else is — check your sources. You are being played. Do a quick search for the story, see if it has been debunked at minimum, and/or look for other sources and perspectives.

One of the most noxious things about disinformation and propaganda is that both weave some truth into their lies, which makes the lies much, much stronger.

Something I like to say about political leanings is that the right assumes it has the moral upper hand and the left assumes it has the intellectual upper hand — both are tremendous weaknesses that are easy to exploit.

Don't let yourself be exploited. Be on guard. Don't assume other people are sheep and don't assume other people are morally bankrupt. Propaganda wants you to assume the worst about your fellow denizens; the people who push it out want the basic fabric of society destroyed.

It wants you hating your lovers, your neighbors, your family members, the guy at the store, the lady at the coffee shop. Propagandists want you distrusting each other, bickering, and unable to agree on the most basic facts — because then they can exploit those cracks further and consolidate power in the process.

Don't let yourself be taken in.

The basic take-aways for the average person? Get your news from trusted sources, confirm it with a second source, check your own confirmation biases, and get familiar with reverse image search tools.

This story originally appeared on 03.30.18

Sponsored

3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

There was a time when every other girl was named Ashley. That time has ended.

As we know, baby name trends are constantly changing. One generation’s Barbara is another generation’s Bethany. But it doesn’t make it any less odd when you suddenly realize that your very own name has suddenly made it into the “old and unhip” pile. And for many of us 80s babies…that time is now.

In a now-viral TikTok post, baby name consultant Colleen Slagen went through the top 100 girl names from 1986 to find which ones “did not age well” and were no longer ranked top 1,000 today. Such a descent from popularity would mark them as what she calls “timestamp names.”

Spoiler alert: what might be even more surprising than the names now considered old school are the names that are still going strong.


The first name that Slagen says is “officially out” is Heather. That’s right, not even cult movie fame could help it keep its ranking.

via GIPHY

Other extinct names include Erica, Courtney, Lindsay, Tara, Crystal, Shannon, Brandy and Dana. Tiffany, Brittany and Casey are also heading very much in that direction.

“My name is Brandy. The Gen Z hostess at Olive Garden told me that she’d never heard my name before and it was so unique,” one viewer wrote.

However, Andrea ranks “surprisingly high,” and Jessica, Ashley and Stephanie have survived…so far.

Gobsmacked, one person asked “How is Stephanie still in there? I don’t think I’ve met a Stephanie younger than myself at 34.”

But the biggest holdout still belongs to Jennifer. “She was a top 100 name all the way up until 2008. Round of applause for Jennifer,” Slagen says in the clip.

@namingbebe Sorry Lindsay, Heather, and Courtney. #babynames #nametok #nameconsultant #girlnames #80skid #1986 #nametrend ♬ original sound - Colleen

If your name has found its way into relic of a bygone era status, fret not. Slagen, whose name also ranks out of the top 1000, assures it just means “we are creatures of the 80's.”

Of course, while we still have baby names that become incredibly common for extended periods of time (looking at you, little Liam and Olivia), the real contemporary trend is going for uniqueness. As an article in The Atlantic notes, for most of American history families tended to name their children after a previous family member, with the goal of blending in, rather than standing out. But now, things have changed.

Laura Wattenberg, the founder of Namerology, told the outlet that “Parents are thinking about naming kids more like how companies think about naming products, which is a kind of competitive marketplace where you need to be able to get attention to succeed.”

But again, even with a keen eye on individualism, patterns pop up. “The same thing we see in fashion trend cycles, we see in names,” Jessie Paquette, another professional baby namer, told Vox. “We’re seeing Eleanor, Maude, Edith—cool-girl grandma names.”

So who knows…give it time (or maybe just a pop song) and one of these 80s names could make a comeback.

Rodney Smith Jr. mowing a lawn in West Covina, California

Rodney Smith Jr., of Huntsville, Alabama, was recently profiled by KMBC for his generous donation to two 11-year-olds who fulfilled his 50 Yard Challenge in Gadsden, Alabama. Ja’Torrian Taylor and Tevin Rice, founders of TJ & JT Mowing Service, completed Smith’s challenge to mow 50 yards for the elderly, veterans, and people unable to care for their lawns for free.

"I’m heading down to Gadsden right now. These are good, hard-working kids that deserve some gratitude," Smith, known as "The Lawnmower Man," told KMBC. Smith had been told that Taylor and Rice were sharing an old lawnmower that a neighbor had donated to them.

When he arrived, he gave both teens a mower, a blower and a trimmer for their hard work, hoping they’ll use their new equipment to expand their business. "Giving these boys lawn equipment is teaching them discipline," Smith said. "If they tell someone they are going to mow a lawn, they need to mow the lawn."

"Remember, this is not the end; it’s just the beginning," Smith added. "This could be the beginning of a successful lawn service."

Smith’s commitment to taking care of people’s lawns started in 2015, and the following year he went viral for helping a 93-year-old woman who could no longer mow hers. The photo of Smith and the woman received over 1 million likes.

Five years ago, Upworthy profiled Smith for setting a bold goal of mowing lawns for free in all 50 states. His goal was to promote his initiative that "provides free lawn care to our elders, those who are disabled, single mothers, and our veterans, who do not have the time, resources, and/or money to manicure their yards."

As part of this goal, he created the 50 Yard Challenge, which has been a smashing success.

As of May 2023, 4,588 pre-teens and teens are participating in this challenge across the United States. If everyone completes the challenge, that will bring the total number of lawns mowed for free by Smith’s Raising Men & Women Lawn Care Service to 229,400.

Kids and teens can take part in the challenge by sending them a photo holding up a sign that says, “I accept the 50 Yard Challenge,” and in return, they’ll receive a white Raising Men/Women shirt along with shades and ear protection to get started. For every 10 lawns cut, they will get a new color shirt.

• 10 lawns earn an orange shirt

• 20 lawns earn a green shirt

• 30 lawns earn a blue shirt

• 40 lawns earn a red shirt

• 50 lawns earn a black shirt

After completing the challenge, the child or teen will receive a mower, a blower, and a trimmer, just like Ja’Torrian Taylor and Tevin Rice from Alabama.

Smith’s story is an incredible example of how one good deed from a kind-hearted person can lead to an outpouring of kindness across the country. It also teaches young people the values of giving back and self-discipline as well as the entrepreneurial spirit.

Learn more about Smith’s nonprofit and donate at Weareraisingmen.com.


This article originally appeared on 6.23.23

Woman refuses to communicate information to mother-in-law

Women are often saddled with the mental load of the household in romantic relationships, there are multiple articles covering the topic. It can be daunting to be in charge of remembering all of the things, essentially becoming a house manager by default. Many times this isn't an arrangement that is discussed, it seems to be either an expectation due to parental modeling or falling into gender roles.

Morgan Strickell was not planning to fall into the trap of being her family's sole organizer and distributer of information. This was a boundary she and her husband were clear about before getting married but recently had to reinforce. The soon-to-be mom, took to her TikTok page to explain that she is not interested in being her husband's "kin keeper."

Strickell is pregnant with her first child and after news was posed on social media, her mother in law's feeling were hurt after finding out the news second hand. It was this situation that prompted the woman's video.


"I refuse to be the primary communicator with my husband's side of the family," Strickell starts. "A few weeks ago my mother-in-law was on the phone with us and she expressed that she was a little bit hurt because she keeps finding out things about our pregnancy from her sister who sees the posts on social media."

The woman explains that this is news to her as she assumed her husband had been communicating the news to his mother. So when they had another ultrasound appointment she reminded her husband to send the information to his mom, to which he asked why she couldn't inform his mom for him. That's when Strickwell had to reinforce her boundary, reminding him that it is his job to inform his side of the family of important information.

Strickwell has a good relationship with her mother in-law and speaks to her on a fairly regular basis, so it's not a matter of an unpleasant relationship. The soon-to-be mom is simply not adding additional things to her plate that then become the expectation. Many people in the comments agreed with her approach.

@morganstrickell #family #momsoftiktok #inlaws ♬ original sound - Morgan Elisa Strickell

I'm on your side and I'm actually the mom of three boys who don't communicate with me, but it is their responsibility to keep me in the loop not their wives," a commenter says.

"Last year my husband told me I was wrong for not including his mom in my Mother's Day shopping and I kindly reminded him that we in fact do not share the same mom," another writes.

"Stay strong on this, it only gets worse after the kid is born," someone declares.

"You are correct and the next thing he'll have you do is buying birthday presents birthday cards for his family and everything becomes your responsibility," another person says.

In another video, Strickell clarified that her husband isn't worried about his communication in with his mother. She also says this isn't an issue that comes up often in their relationship because he is very good at communicating with his family. But Strickwell's intention was to use that example as a means to make sure people are aware that the responsibility of communication doesn't have to fall on the female partner in the relationship.

www.youtube.com

British high schoolers try southern food for the first time

Southern food is beloved by many, and those of us raised on it just consider it dinner, not a special cuisine. But since Southern food is pretty geographical, there are plenty of Americans who haven't had the opportunity to try authentic Southern food. There are a few soul food restaurants that get it right sprinkled across the country, but all are not created equal.

Since Southern cooking isn't available throughout all of America, it shouldn't be a surprise that it's not a staple across the pond. Josh Carrott, author of "Once Upon A Time in Carrottland," runs the YouTube channel Jolly, where he has people try new foods. He decided to invite a group of British schoolboys to try a few Southern staples. The boys are in year 9 in England, which means they're between the ages of 13 and 14.

Since Carrott isn't Southern, or even American for that matter, I can't say how the food was prepared. What I can say is that my very Southern grandmother would give the sausage gravy preparation the side eye, but other than that, it looked as authentic as possible.


The boys were served biscuits that were perfectly golden, and there was immediate confusion. Apparently biscuits are flat and hard in England, so the boys were sure they were being served scones. It only took one bite for them to come around to the idea of the buttery fluffy delight that is the Southern biscuit. But the taste test for the biscuits wasn't over—Carrott mixed up some white sausage gravy and smothered the delicious bread.

None of the boys were eager to try a meal that many Southern households eat regularly.

"Let's call it interesting for now. I'm not going to make a judgment," one boy says.

"It looks like a chopped-up ferret," another lamented.

To be fair, if you've never seen biscuits and gravy, it doesn't look instantly appealing, but once you try it, the dish suddenly looks amazing every time you encounter it moving forward. Maybe it isn't everyone's favorite thing, but being able to drive through a Whataburger and grab it to go brings me childlike joy.

After trying everything offered, all of the boys agreed that the Southern food was delicious, including the sweet tea. Several of them said they preferred it over their British hot tea—no one tell their parents. It feels like it would be as shocking as finding a Southerner who prefers unsweet tea. You can watch the entire video below.

This article originally appeared on 6.22.23

Sergio Reis/Youtube

Odds are you’ve heard Wally de Backer, aka Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.”

It’s the Australian musician’s biggest commercial hit, selling more than 20 million copies since its release in 2011, making it one of the best-selling digital singles of all time. Not to mention it inspired several amazing covers, which you might have also stumbled upon.

The music video, in its poignant simplicity, is every bit as iconic.

Gotye stands naked facing the camera, as featured singer Kimbra faces him. As they sing, they are slowly “painted” into and out of the background of geometric shapes using stop motion animation. There’s a very Wes Anderson feel to it that adds so much to the story told in the song, making it all the more memorable.

All this to say…it would be a challenge to recreate the magic that’s so inherent in the original. And yet, one dance company has clearly understood the assignment.


All this to say…it would be a challenge to recreate the magic that’s so inherent in the original. And yet, one dance company has clearly understood the assignment.

Netherland based dance troupe CDK recently went viral for their highly stylized movement performance to the well known art pop ballad.

As thousands of viewers were quick to note, it’s not just the incredible dance moves that make this performance so captivating. It’s a killer combination of choreography, camerawork and costumes that make the piece impossible to turn away from.

“This is pure art,” one person wrote. While another added, “I think I’m going to watch it everyday for the rest of my life.”

Take a look for yourself:

CDK - Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye

This group is clearly at the top of their game, by how easy they make it all look (like, I've already convinced myself that I can pull off those moves). But what’s more evident is that they enjoy what they’re doing to the nth degree.

To find even more of CDK's performances, follow them on Instagram.

Fun fact #1: Gotye allows small independent projects, like student films—and probably this dance piece—to use his music free of charge. "If someone wants to use it commercially I look at what the budget is and the creativity of the project," he said, according to News.com.

Fun fact #2: CDK isn't the only group to have recently breathed new life into the song. A few weeks ago, an electronic remix of the song titled "Somebody (2024)," created by electronic music producers Chris Lake, Fisher, and Sante Sansone, debuted. Much like it's predecessor, "Somebody (2024) is topping the charts.


This article originally appeared on 3.6.24