09 - How To Fact-Check
From my experience of fact-checking and debunking specific conspiracy claims I think the way to fact check comes down to three things - a triforce of fact-checking.
Source - context - evidence
This involves some detective work usually. You have to hunt down the original source of the information. This means finding and following links, looking up common phrases, reverse image searching images. You have to find where the very first instance of the information came from. Also don't be scared, that's not an Illuminati triangle. It's the Triforce from the Legend of Zelda.
Here are some methods I use:
Google searches can utilise keywords and symbols to better specify what you’re searching for.
“Enclosing a phrase in quotes” means it will specifically look for pages with those words in that order. This is super handy for searching for documents and webpages. Say someone shares an image taken from their phone of a website and you want to check it. Find a phrase that appears in the webpage and search for it in quote marks. Chances are two lines from the website won’t appear very often on other pages. Sometimes you can be too specific where the page actually contains tab or additional spaces so you might need to shorten it and play around with different phrases.
Typing -something will show results not containing that word. If I type moderna -pfizer then the result will be pages on moderna which do not contains pfizer. If the word contains a space you need to enclose it in quotations such as moderna -”pfizer vaccine”.
You can search only a specific website by typing site:URL such as site:fun-with-facts.com.
Another method is reverse image searching.
On the google image page there is a “search by image” button in the shape of a camera. Clicking on that you can upload an image or paste the URL to reverse search the image. Sometimes it doesn’t work but sometimes it does. Did an image just happen at an event? Find out. If it existed online 2 years ago then probably not.
Who else covered the story? Check on GroundNews to see if other websites have more information.
What do fact checkers say?
FullFact UK is decent https://fullfact.org/
Politifactis pretty good, too https://www.politifact.com/
Reuters has one https://www.reuters.com/fact-check
Snopes has one, too https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/
APNews does https://apnews.com/hub/ap-fact-check
AFP too https://factcheck.afp.com/
There are others, but I wouldn’t use CNN’s fact check. Not because it won’t be factual (which it might be) but because it’s the quintessential target of the right, as fox news is for the left. Avoid tainting your information and go for centered reliable sources like the ones above.
Someone shared this image of an article. We have a title to go on so google search that in quotations. Search for: “WHO now saying You do not need to Wear a Mask”
Interestingly David Icke shared this on his site. The link no longer works, though.
I found this article linked through various social media posts. I searched for the headline in quotes in Google to find it.
This takes me to the original article. Rainbow warrior's blog - the most reliable of news sources.
On the site it supposedly shows the source of the information. Surprising. Let’s follow the link that says “Source”.
This blog post’s source is this article in Principia Scientific.
OK, so they say in the Jan 22nd briefing that the WHO “admitted” face masks don’t need to be worn. They link to the WHO site. Must be legit, right? Let’s continue hunting the source.
Their video from 22/01/2021 - timecode 44:00. The WHO are asked if different mask types provide less protection than others in light of new variants and whether they will revise their facemask guidance. The response is:
"we are seeing that the interventions that are in place are working. But I should say with the use of masks, masks are one aspect of control. One aspect of reducing the spread of this virus and they can't be used alone."
"Not one solution is enough, not masks alone are enough, not physical distancing, not hand hygiene - you've heard us say that quite a lot."
"We will look at our guidance, we have no intention of changing it right now, but if anything changes we will modify and we will update accordingly. But it is important to note that the measures that are in place in countries where the virus variants are circulating are working"
As of writing this on Feb 1st 2021, here is the WHO’s facemask guidance page:
“Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives; the use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection against COVID-19.
If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, stay safe by taking some simple precautions, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds, cleaning your hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue. Check local advice where you live and work. Do it all!
Make wearing a mask a normal part of being around other people. The appropriate use, storage and cleaning or disposal of masks are essential to make them as effective as possible.”
So there you have it. Demonstrably and objectively false information. All I did was follow the breadcrumbs to find where the information originated from. If articles say “someone admitted something” or “they now say this” but don’t provide a decent reference, timecode to the video or provide a quote - then it’s likely misinformation. Decent articles and websites quote their sources and provide readers ways to check those sources. This didn’t - it’s a terrible website, a terrible blog, and the fact that the source of their post directly says the opposite but the pages remain up 5+ days later is a testament to the truth being irrelevant to some people.
Context is vital. Someone said something or a website wrote something. Some information somewhere is presented. You’re seeing the narrow window of information the sharer wanted you to see. You have to go digging into what it means and what it’s for. People sharing information or articles or videos saying something is true are interpreting the source information. They can choose to ignore all context and present it as a fact on its own. You need to uncover and look at the wider picture. What information is missing? What complimentary information can you find out that puts the single piece of information you’ve been shown into its wider context?
This is VAERS, it monitors potential adverse events to vaccine reactions. I Googled “cdc wonder”. There’s a link called “Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting”. Then I came to the page in the image. Before you go to the results they make you click an agreement button. Next to that reads:
“Vaccine providers are encouraged to report any clinically significant health problem following vaccination to VAERS, whether or not they believe the vaccine was the cause.”
“Reports may include incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental and unverified information.”
“The number of reports alone cannot be interpreted or used to reach conclusions about the existence, severity, frequency, or rates of problems associated with vaccines.”
“VAERS data do not represent all known safety information for a vaccine and should be interpreted in the context of other scientific information”
I read through a good many reported events. They range from expected adverse events like fever, fatigue, and headaches (as shown in the Pfizer trial) to a perforated colon and appendicitis.
On their site is a link “Guide to Interpreting VAERS Data”. On that page they write:
“When evaluating data from VAERS, it is important to note that for any reported event, no cause-and-effect relationship has been established. Reports of all possible associations between vaccines and adverse events (possible side effects) are filed in VAERS. Therefore, VAERS collects data on any adverse event following vaccination, be it coincidental or truly caused by a vaccine. The report of an adverse event to VAERS is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event.”
“VAERS is a passive reporting system, meaning that reports about adverse events are not automatically collected, but require a report to be filed to VAERS. VAERS reports can be submitted voluntarily by anyone, including healthcare providers, patients, or family members. Reports vary in quality and completeness. They often lack details and sometimes can have information that contains errors.”
“Physicians and patients understand that minor side effects of vaccinations often include this kind of discomfort, as well as low fevers. On the other hand, more serious and unexpected medical events are probably more likely to be reported than minor ones, especially when they occur soon after vaccination, even if they may be coincidental and related to other causes.”
“A report to VAERS generally does not prove that the identified vaccine(s) caused the adverse event described. It only confirms that the reported event occurred sometime after vaccine was given. No proof that the event was caused by the vaccine is required in order for VAERS to accept the report. VAERS accepts all reports without judging whether the event was caused by the vaccine.”
Why read all that?
Context matters. Sharing a post showing how many people are having vaccine-related adverse events makes it look like these are all causal effects of the vaccine. However, putting this table into context we can see that anyone can fill in a report, quality fluctuates, no proof is needed to submit a report, and a report implies no causal relationship between vaccination and the event. All this means is a possible event, and it can be filled out by absolutely anyone. It’s a rough idea of potential numbers, but this isn’t by any means a statistical representation of the actual events.
What this site (which is a valuable resource) allows doctors and vaccine manufacturers to do is monitor any possible causal adverse events not anticipated and spot safety signals. I’ve seen people sharing this around like they’re definitive statistics - they are not. People dying after having the vaccine might be causally connected, it might not. Reports will be submitted anyway, but it’s not proof of a causal relationship as they state on their site.
By putting this into context - the numbers shown aren’t incorrect, they’re actually correct. However, they don’t represent what they’re being presented as by many people. To say it again - context matters.
This is about evaluating the quality of the evidence provided. You’ve found the source and put it in context, but how reliable is that in-context source information?
This one is the hardest to do in my opinion compared with the other two. Finding where information comes from and hunting it down is a skill you can practice and it doesn’t take long to get good at it. Context just requires some background reading and looking at information outside of the scope of the original post. Evaluating the quality of evidence is difficult.
For both examples above:
The WHO as a source is an evidence-driven and reliable scientific institution. They might have had the odd slip up here and there but they’re human like everyone else. In general, the quality of evidence for saying face masks are part of a comprehensive mitigation strategy is backed up by a ton of scientific evidence which I’ve shown on this site.
For the second example about context, the information is more provisional as VAERS reports can be filled out by anyone to various levels of accuracy. They are filled out regardless if the vaccine is thought to cause the events or not, are skewed towards more serious cases which increases the percentage ratios, and don’t reflect the true impact of the vaccine for those reasons. Using it as evidence for how “poisonous” vaccines are would be misusing it for what it was intended for and therefore, would not be great evidence. It’s good, but not great. If anything it should be used to support more robust data.
In a nutshell, the way I’m using evidence here is to evaluate the quality of the evidence at source in light of what it’s being used for.
As a second example looking at the WHO face mask example: the WHO is a good source, however, for what it was being used for (to say you don’t need face masks) the quality of that evidence is beyond terrible. If the article was saying masks still work, then it would be great evidence.
Quality of evidence refers to “how good the evidence is overall, and how much it supports the claim”.
You can have great evidence being used for something other than it was intended which would result in great and simultaneously awful evidence. Then you have situations like this where good evidence is being misused, you get into misleading as opposed to false levels of misinformation.
Is the source a study or series of studies? What do they say? What do they study? What is their methodology? Has the result been replicated in other studies? What do comments on the paper say? Does it study what it’s being used for? Is it a paper that simply implies causation from correlation, or is there a causal association? Does the paper have quality control measures and bias prevention? Is it randomised, does it have controls, is it blinded? Scrutinise the source in context and evaluate whether it is adequate evidence to support the claim.
I had a delightful and insightful conversation with a lady who said:
“Bill Gates has NO medical degree yet people still think he is saving them, maybe you need to look into eugenics and ask yourself why Bill and daddy gates is so into it, why Bill patented his vax under 060606 and use Luciferase (The name and number of the Beast...... Doesn't it also say in the Bible that the antichrist will seem to perform miracles and wonders yet he is a great liar, a con artist even? Have fun with your Mark of the Beast but remember Iron and Clay don't mix”
Essentially she’s saying Bill Gates is pushing a satanic vaccine containing luciferase in patent 060606.
So there are two things I want to focus on.
It’s a patent for a device (130 which is “user device 130 may include personal computers, servers, cell phones, tablets, laptops, smart devices (e.g. smart watches or smart televisions).”) which picks up on user activity and rewards them with cryptocurrency.
In essence it’s a patent to reward people being active with cryptocurrency. I did a search (Ctrl + F) on each page for “luc” for luciferase and nothing came up. Neither did “vacc” for vaccine.
So evidence in favour of a luciferase 060606 patent vaccine - zero.
It’s a chemical in bioluminescence and was named by Raphaël Dubois who lived 1849 to 1929 who specialised in bioluminescence.
He chose luciferase because Lucifer in latin roughly translates to “light-bearer”.
Luciferase is used by scientists in covid-19 vaccine research, but it’s not listed on the actual vaccine ingredients. It's not used as an ingredient - it's a testing tool.
“The power of luciferase has been harnessed by scientists to devise reactions whose light output is used to monitor biological processes including gene expression, biomolecular binding, and cell viability.”
Here’s some more info.
“The use of gene reporters such as luciferase permits highly sensitive and nondestructive monitoring of gene expression. Firefly luciferase, a 61 kD monomeric protein, is especially attractive to many researchers because of its high sensitivity, wide linear detection range and extremely low background due to the absence of endogenous luminescent activity in mammalian cells”
The specifics of how it’s used in each test is way beyond my knowledge, so I won’t even humour myself with that one.
So what connection does a bioluminescent chemical found in fireflies coined by a 19th century pharmacologist have in common with a Microsoft patent for a system to award physical activity with cryptocurrency? Absolutely nothing from what I can tell. The lady who made this claim neither supported it with evidence or even tried. She just told me it was true and to read the bible, and that I was stupid. Needless to say, it wasn’t very convincing.
What these two things have to do with a satanic Bill Gates vaccine I have no idea.
The trifecta of fact-checking will help you cut through misinformation:
Source: Where is the original information. Hunt it down and follow the breadcrumbs.
Context: What is the context around that source information?
Evidence: Is the source information good evidence, and does it support the claim?
If you follow these three things, chances are you’ll be able to fact-check most claims you find online for others or just yourself to see what’s correct and what isn’t.
Above all: stay calm and take your time. If you rush into responding when you haven’t done your homework you can hurt your argument even if you’re correct. Be calm, be collected, be mature, reply when ready.
That’s the end of the critical thinking section. I hope you’ve got something from this. I don’t have anything else to offer you other than specifically debunking conspiracy claims, but you can do that yourself now!
Generate a hunger for specifics, and get accustomed to reading a lot. Read studies thoroughly. Read them top to bottom. Engage with them and see what they’re saying. There’s a huge world of science out there and most of it you’ll never look at. The world of science is enormous. As you start understanding the scope of specificity and complexity science deals with, your horizons expand further than you can reach them. The world opens up and mystery can be chased forever. Enjoy learning and thinking critically.
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