A sea of imprecision and lies cloaked by an authoritative UI
December 30, 2017 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Jane Lytvynenko has encapsulated much of her and other folks' reporting this year in a single quiz: "If You Get 41/55 on this quiz, Fake News Didn't Fool You This Year"
posted by Going To Maine (70 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
I barely squeaked by a 42/55.

I hadn't heard of a lot of the things on the list (fake or otherwise) and I lost a lot of points for thinking members of the Trump administration couldn't gaff that badly...
posted by selenized at 12:52 PM on December 30 [8 favorites]


I only managed 38, but in my defence, I've spent the past year wondering if anything happening in America is real... so there's that.
posted by greenhornet at 12:54 PM on December 30 [19 favorites]


I got 40. I remembered seeing many of these on twitter. The one about the woman who faked being blind, I really thought that was true.

Also I said the story about Melania having a body double is fake because I wanted the point, but I choose to continue to believe it's real.
posted by bleep at 12:57 PM on December 30 [9 favorites]


A lot of these were new to me, and I had to guess. I passed with flying colors.

But I don't feel that great about it because I guessed based entirely on what I thought I was plausible, which is definitely informed by my political views. That's not very generalizable as advice. "Have a more reality-based outlook" isn't exactly something that I can tell my students when I try to teach them how to evaluate sources.

And as more legitimate "news" organizations fall for this stuff or make it easier for random people to hijack their name and reputation, other advice like "check the source" gets less and less useful. It's all very depressing.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:59 PM on December 30 [9 favorites]


44/55. I'd feel more uncomfortable that I missed 11 if it wasn't the high score so far.
posted by frogstar42 at 1:00 PM on December 30


Also barely passing with 42. Some of the "no, it was really only THIS many protesters", etc., questions I take issue with. Too tricksy!
posted by yhbc at 1:01 PM on December 30 [12 favorites]


I got 37 partly because a bunch of them I guessed almost randomly, but that's too high, because most of those stories don't really matter. I don't need to know whether that's a real caption from a porn movie, or if Seth Rogan really tweeted that, or if Fox News had a dumb caption, or what Bruce Willis said or where that picture of the bear was taken. None of that stuff matters, and I'm really kind of disappointed that I knew most of the ones I did. It all represents dumb shit I wasted my time with this year.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:04 PM on December 30 [49 favorites]


Oh, so the picture of the bear was from one place rather than another?

what scandal
posted by meese at 1:06 PM on December 30 [78 favorites]


The thing I find unsettling about all of these is the thousands of impressions they generated. There's always a sucker.

It would be nice to have a version of this that provides credit for being accurate about the gist of something; that the bear was in Connecticut, not Canada seems less important. Similarly, knowing what the government is doing for policy seems more important than bear activity in general.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:07 PM on December 30 [7 favorites]


The bear bothered me too. "No, it was Connecticut, not Ontario. Sorry."
posted by yhbc at 1:07 PM on December 30 [10 favorites]


None of that stuff matters

The President gets his information from Fox Chyrons.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:08 PM on December 30 [4 favorites]


The bear bothers me, but I like it as a comment on how we accept that there will be garbage information in our diet, errors that we don't actually care about. We accept that some degree of falsehood isn't worth bothering over, because at some level it's futile to demand perfection.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:12 PM on December 30 [10 favorites]


Oh, so the picture of the bear was from one place rather than another?

what scandal


I actually think that one made a good point. The picture wasn't just from different place, it was stolen from a different story entirely (earlier in the year, in a different place). For the bear story it doesn't really matter, but the exact same pattern was repeated several times in the list: take a real photo from a different story, slap a new headline on it, and you have a new story! We like to think that we would be able to parse out reality by examining the pixels or evaluating whether the headline seems plausible to us, this example shows that to be a lie (the photo is real, the headline is plausible, and yet it is fake)
posted by selenized at 1:13 PM on December 30 [27 favorites]


woo 48

the sad thing about that is the reason I knew so many were fake is because of tumblr
posted by poffin boffin at 1:14 PM on December 30 [4 favorites]


The President gets his information from Fox Chyrons.

If Fox Chyrons are mythological beasts out of Dante, I would not be surprised to learn Trump hears them speaking to him.

But some of the questions really don't matter one way or another. I don't care if the president thinks the bear was in Iowa or Alberta or wherever.
posted by pracowity at 1:14 PM on December 30 [1 favorite]


I got 56 right because I have teh smart and lots of words. I'm really very intelligent. Not like those other people. Everyone knows this; it's common knowledge.
posted by theora55 at 1:16 PM on December 30 [10 favorites]


the sad thing about that is the reason I knew so many were fake is because of tumblr

The modern world is stranger than I have imagined.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:19 PM on December 30 [1 favorite]


i missed the first one, because i thought the story was claiming melania's double was a fake, which would make it a real story, so i clicked real and missed it because it was fake

at that moment i realized our media is one tsunami sized gish gallop to distract us from the idea we need a goddam revolution or something and to hell with all this shit
posted by pyramid termite at 1:20 PM on December 30 [24 favorites]


also i thought i actually posted an fpp about kim jong nam's assassination but i see now that i did not, so i guess i should do that
posted by poffin boffin at 1:22 PM on December 30


I didn't do that great but several of them I had not even heard before, so I was guessing. I am embarrassed to acknowledge that three of them were stories I actually fell for during the year. That did not make me happy.
posted by zzazazz at 1:27 PM on December 30


I'm with ernielundquist on this. The premise of the test doesn't even make sense. Not engaging with Twitter and Facebook means you wouldn't see most of these "important stories" at all, so getting fooled by them wasn't much of a possibility until running into the Buzzfeed test itself. Not getting involved with all the day to day nonsense and minutiae can be its own reward.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:28 PM on December 30 [20 favorites]


What got me is the dichotomy: You can either decide that this thing is real, or you can decide it is fake, but you can't say that you don't know. And this is what you should mostly be saying, when you see something that seems fishy: I don't know, I need to go look and see if I can find more information if I want to come to a conclusion about this. Too many people are getting caught because they're deciding things are true or false based on a passing mention with no sources.
posted by Sequence at 1:32 PM on December 30 [47 favorites]


Not engaging with Twitter and Facebook means you wouldn't see most of these "important stories" at all

I quit Facebook several years ago, and never really got into Twitter or any other social media. The quiz combined with your comment just made me realize how utterly toxic that shit really is. I never heard of ~90% of the stories in this "Fake 'News'" quiz and assumed that was because the article was stupid clickbait. Now I'm realizing that I'm out of touch because I've been totally unaware of how many people are wading through a sewer of this crap.
posted by Ickster at 1:36 PM on December 30 [13 favorites]




I got fifty, with ten-ish informed guesses (which may mean I'm reading too much news); but the honest answer to lot of these would really be, not 'real' or 'fake,' but 'there isn't enough information provided to say either way.' That's the point of the bear: it's plausible either way! It's really a photograph of an actual bear! But it's also entirely a lie.
posted by cjelli at 1:37 PM on December 30 [4 favorites]


I got 4 questions in and closed the window. Who gives a fuck about body doubles and random animal memes?

Although it's important for news to be truthful, It isn't whether the news is fake or not, it is whether it's a distraction. Even with Trump, we see this unrelating focus on his ignorant statements, which serves as great meme fodder, but is not really worth knowing except in the general sense that they exist. We got the same thing with Bush. "Mission Accomplished" is bitterly funny, but it's not actually news worthy.

This shit serves as distraction that takes you away from the details of what is going on, and the levels of sociopathic corruption throughout. You get to be outraged at the orange clown while party machines steal money and welfare from the citizens. All the memes about trump never seem to point out the complicity of the legislature.
posted by smidgen at 1:41 PM on December 30 [15 favorites]


Thinking on this further: the bear bugs me because it's not news. It's not really noteworthy; it may be fake, but it's not exactly fake news. But it shares many of the external features of fake news, and would probably slot in alongside real news (as in, news-news) in social media feeds.
posted by cjelli at 1:44 PM on December 30 [4 favorites]


Yes I got bored and quit too. Most of these aren't news stories.
I like Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me, though, so maybe it's just a short attention span.
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:44 PM on December 30 [2 favorites]


Who gives a fuck about body doubles

Who gave a fuck about comet ping-pong?
posted by Going To Maine at 1:47 PM on December 30 [1 favorite]


I guess my real issue is that I've been trying to avoid junk news, true or false, and that quiz was mostly that. It's been a while since there's been a slow news day, so any time I spend on one-off stories is coming out of something else. I don't have time or the mental energy to even keep up enough with the actual, important news about policies and stuff as it is.

I made a conscious decision to try not to click those kind of "Look at this asshole" stories about people getting stiffed on a tip or a kid getting in trouble at school for ridiculous reasons. Not because they're not bad, but because I know about that stuff already, and I don't have the capacity right now to get individually outraged about each unique instance. I'll read a story about an epidemic of tip-stiffing or discriminatory practices in schools, but I don't need to read all the individual stories that news outlets grab offa Twitter and Facebook.

And as far as the public opinion type things, it's kind of the same deal. So what if thousands of Canadians had marched in support of Trump? A lot of people suck, including probably a couple thousand Canadians or so. I already knew that, and nothing about that story is really significant to me. I know that Trump and his supporters love pretending they're super-popular and all, but I'm not going to play along. That's not a good measure of the validity of your ideas.

And ultimately, it matters a lot less what individual stories like that are than it does that people like to pick and choose little human interest stories that support their worldview. "Ha ha, look at this dumbass!" isn't the most insidious fake news. There are plenty of real jerkweeds out there that could probably stand in if you just want see someone you disagree with being a fool. Whether it's true or not is secondary. The main thing is that those stories are a really bad basis for forming or defending your positions.

And the really dangerous fake news is shit like Pizzagate and climate change denial stories, where basic fundamental facts are being misrepresented, and the quiz seems to be largely ignoring those types of things.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:48 PM on December 30 [10 favorites]


The president's spokesman denied the holocaust in a press conference.

Real.

What a fucking year.
posted by adept256 at 2:02 PM on December 30 [8 favorites]


42. There's just so much of this bullshit.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:09 PM on December 30


Only got 38 correct. I remember a lot of the stories and forgot particulars during this FLOOD OF BULLSHIT year.
posted by wenestvedt at 2:23 PM on December 30


Losing at this game is like winning.
posted by parki at 2:25 PM on December 30


43/55 Mostly the ones I got wrong were the weird viral hoaxes that have nothing to do with actual news. I'd never heard of any of them one way or the other because I'm not on social media much.
posted by soren_lorensen at 2:32 PM on December 30 [4 favorites]


About all that proved was how little I paid attention to damned near everything.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:34 PM on December 30 [2 favorites]


Thinking on this further: the bear bugs me because it's not news. It's not really noteworthy; it may be fake, but it's not exactly fake news.

Agreed, but I also feel like its existence remains relevant in a way that parallels Stephen Colbert's truth vs truthiness metacommentary on politics. People share these things widely without really caring too much about whether or not they're actually news, or something noteworthy, but because it gives them a feeling of newsiness.

I feel like I could be articulating this better but I am pain meds hangover today.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:35 PM on December 30 [7 favorites]


44/55. The ones I'd heard of I got right.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:44 PM on December 30


The bear bugs me because who makes these things. What person looks at the bear story and says, you know, this would be better if it were in Ontario instead of Connecticut.
posted by Pyry at 2:46 PM on December 30 [12 favorites]


I opened it because of Lytvynenko, thinking daughter maybe? I closed it after about 20 questions because too buzzfeed..
posted by Chuckles at 2:55 PM on December 30


Like specifically with the bear image, I've seen that shared as having occurred in 3 different locations, only one of which was in the US, and it looked like people resharing it on were more likely to do so when it was claiming to be from Finland or Norway or whatever. My impression of this is that in a sense they now feel more worldly having engaged with this allegedly foreign piece of easily understood and nonthreatening media.

Similarly here on mefi we often get non-US members expressing their wholly valid exhaustion at seeing mostly posts about US related issues and whatnot, and the response to that usually varies from wholehearted agreement to outraged fury at being forced to acknowledge other countries on earth. But pretty often posts that are internationally based but easily understood and nonthreatening fare far better than non-US posts that are of a more serious nature. People get to participate in the fun global posts and maybe feel like they're "doing better".

Like right now there is a fascinating post about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto with only 5 comments and a hilarious post about a Russian poop sculptor with 5x as many comments: one is very easy to engage with and the other is somewhat less so; one is newsworthy and the other gives a good sense of easily interactable newsworthiness. In these particular cases neither one of them is "fake" news so I don't really think this is a great example of the specific fake news phenomenon, but it's the best I can currently do to describe why and how I personally think people interact with stuff like the peeping bear.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:58 PM on December 30 [10 favorites]


What person looks at the bear story and says, you know, this would be better if it were in Ontario instead of Connecticut.

In addition to what poffin boffin suggests, my guess would be that a lot of that kind of thing comes from individuals who were trying to impress their personal circle of online friends, and/or people just looking to boost their Twitter follower numbers; then viralness happens and suddenly the whole world sees it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:00 PM on December 30 [1 favorite]


I got 32 out of all right, but I try not to watch the news, am not on twitter, so I never heard of a lot of these stories and just had to guess. I think I got all the outrageous things Trump's minions said right though.
posted by mermayd at 3:08 PM on December 30


I opened it because of Lytvynenko, thinking daughter maybe? I closed it after about 20 questions because too buzzfeed..

Quoting myself. Starting to realise, that in this perverse world of 2017 Buzzfeed, Vox, and Teen Vogue are the reputable news sources of our time. It is Teen Vogue, right? Can't remember exactly..

Anyway, Bears in Ontario vs. Connecticut aside, maybe there is more quality in the quiz than I gave it credit for :p Still not going back to it..
posted by Chuckles at 3:18 PM on December 30


So what if thousands of Canadians had marched in support of Trump? A lot of people suck, including probably a couple thousand Canadians or so.

Because my cryptofascist neighbour or coworker will feel more empowered to drop their cloak if they feel there's a moral majority pissed-off plurality willing to back them up.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 3:31 PM on December 30 [4 favorites]


Isn't this kind of a trick question, in that by using it to gauge your level of fake news gullibility you're agreeing that twitter = news?

Like, for example the bear on the porch, I thought it was a debate over it being a real bear or a person in a bear costume. Why the fuck do I care if that's a bear from Ontario or Connecticut?

Most of this stuff just strikes me as pointless outside of people who obsess over things 'going viral'.
posted by mannequito at 4:09 PM on December 30 [7 favorites]


Like, for example the bear on the porch, I thought it was a debate over it being a real bear or a person in a bear costume. Why the fuck do I care if that's a bear from Ontario or Connecticut?

Missing the actual falsehood because of a debate over something that is actually true seems like a pretty real problem in this world.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:49 PM on December 30 [1 favorite]


39/55 . That was HARD
posted by Yowser at 5:22 PM on December 30


I don't really get the complaint that you hadn't heard of these beforehand. If that quiz is the first time you're encountering a story (and there are several there that I can't possibly imagine ever encountering in the wild) you get a golden opportunity to see how good your ability to assess a new news story is. As the quiz makes clear, only looking at mainstream news sources does not protect you from fake news; several of these stories were run by credulous news organisations that should have known better.
posted by Merus at 5:23 PM on December 30 [3 favorites]


I also bailed because it didn't seem to make a lot of sense or have a point.

Are you asking me if that was a real story about the coyote? Yes, I saw it. It was a false story, but it was real. I thought it was a joke and didn't pay much attention.

Are you asking if the bear was real, the location was real, the story was real, what are you asking? I would have never read far enough into any of these bear/cat/coyote stories to know whether they were factually correct or not, I don't care.


You can either decide that this thing is real, or you can decide it is fake, but you can't say that you don't know.


Exactly.
posted by bongo_x at 5:31 PM on December 30 [3 favorites]


In the ranked list of news items that it's important I as a citizen understand and can evaluate critically, images of bears on porches and snarky ad campaigns for liquor are hundreds of pages deep.

We need three categories: "real," "fake," and "not in any way important. Didn't you say you were a journalist? Please do your job."
posted by eotvos at 5:38 PM on December 30 [9 favorites]


I only got 40 but I wanted to believe that the one lady trained 65 cats to steal from her neighbors and that the other lady faked blindness for 26 years to avoid social interaction so I regret none of my answers.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:13 PM on December 30 [6 favorites]


48 - on the ones I got wrong I notably tended to assume that Trump or an affiliate had done something awful.
posted by Sparx at 7:19 PM on December 30 [1 favorite]


You got 43 out of 55 right!
You're slaying fake news!

I'd seen a few of these but mostly I just went by what seemed plausible...unless it was a story about the far right doing something awful and blaming antifa for it. Those mostly turned out to be true.

In other disturbing news, a bot just invited me to "Uncensored Politics your #1 spot for white supremacist politics!" on discord. Is discord the kind of place where i can report this bot and get it banned, because i am really wigged out by the idea that white supremicists are recruiting via bot to closed group chat channels on a platform mostly used by teenagers and gamers.
posted by subdee at 8:26 PM on December 30 [1 favorite]


Is it real, or was it featured as real in media? It was not actually clear what they were asking.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 10:47 PM on December 30 [2 favorites]


Is it real, or was it featured as real in media? It was not actually clear what they were asking.

Yeah, I felt stupid because I wasn't sure what the question actually was
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:01 PM on December 30


I wanted the Bitcoin story to be true.
posted by fshgrl at 11:19 PM on December 30 [4 favorites]


For those who say that the frivolous and apolitical stories don't matter, consider that each one represents a million tiny dopamine hits for a million weird facebook uncles, further training their minds to seek out sensational fake garbage. I don't think it's much of a stretch to argue that this type of clickbait is an ideal transmission vector for certain slogan-heavy ideologies, as opposed to ones that come with a syllabus and a reading list.

And then there's the producers of this clickbait to consider. They make bank and the market takes notice. Every innocuous looking fake story that achieves virality incentivizes the creation of more fake news. Some harmless, and many not.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 11:43 PM on December 30 [8 favorites]


The point of the including the stories that "don't matter" is that enough people believed them to make them be stories precisely because they were fake.

Those people then probably also believe antifa caused the train derailment and that Saudi TV obscured Merkel's hair.
posted by sio42 at 2:22 AM on December 31 [2 favorites]


I suspect some of the frustration here is the product of MeFites (on average) skewing higher when it comes to standardized test performance. When we fare poorly on a “quiz” there must be some explanation! Especially if it implies that we are less than informed on news and world events. Cognitive dissonance, is what I’m saying.



Also, it’s a shit quiz. :p
posted by Barack Spinoza at 8:19 AM on December 31 [2 favorites]


46/55

There were several stories that I hadn't heard of, but thought that given what was shown in the quiz I had no way of knowing whether they were true or not, but they didn't seem too crazy. Those usually turned out to be true.

There were also several trivial stories that didn't seem plausible at all, and they turned out to be false, but some respected news source ran them as real. Even if they were trivial and presented as the lighter side of news or whatever, it's still their job to verify the stories. Even the interns. Come on.
posted by maggiemaggie at 8:41 AM on December 31 [1 favorite]


48/55. Many of these I had seen either shared or debunked previously, but the majority I had to guess. Some of the signs that set off my "fake" alarms:
  • Is the entire story centered on a single photo/screenshot that makes a big impression, but could easily be faked or taken out of context?
  • Does this confirm some group's pre-existing opinion so strongly that they will share it regardless of its provenance?
  • Is it so ridiculous that a hoaxer would spread it just for the lulz (e.g., training cats to steal)?
And some signs of some non-fake stories:
  • Stuff that someone can easily do for real as a publicity stunt (e.g., race horse renamed, vodka ad, Seth Rogen DM).
  • Story describes a real group reacting predictably to real event (e.g., Russia says NYT "fake news" report is fake news).
Like Sparx, I found "team Trump says something horrible" to be the hardest category, partly because it confirms my prejudices, and partly because you have people like Alex Jones in there completely redefining what is plausibly horrible.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:15 AM on December 31 [4 favorites]


38, because I was guessing on a lot of the nonpolitical ones. And I'm on Facebook pretty constantly and hadn't seen most of those; "social media" does not automatically equal "exposed to crappy viral memes."
posted by lazuli at 9:18 AM on December 31 [1 favorite]


Yeah, one can easily come up with a dozen semi-plausible (but a little unexpected) vignettes that could easily be either true or false. It’s kind of like those quizzes that ask: “Who said it: Goebbels or Kellyanne Conway?” Depending on the samples you choose, you often can’t tell.

Which just gets us back to an old adage that long predated the internet and social media: don’t believe everything you read.

Also, I agree that guessing whether a bear shat in the woods in Connecticut vs in Ontario has zero to do with one’s gullibility for falsehoods. It just means who the hell knows, and why should I even care?
posted by darkstar at 9:30 AM on December 31


Of the fake stories, there was only one I had seen in the wild without realizing it was fake: the married Chinese billionaires. Foolishly, as I was taking the quiz, I thought, "Oh, I remember that story" and immediately clicked on REAL, without thinking to question a fact that I already "knew."
posted by mbrubeck at 9:36 AM on December 31 [2 favorites]


By the way, 33/55 (exactly 60%) of the quiz entries were fake. 22/55 (40%) were real.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:41 AM on December 31 [2 favorites]


38
posted by bz at 9:51 AM on December 31


I think the quiz itself illustrates the problem that many people think you must take a position on everything.
posted by bongo_x at 9:52 AM on December 31 [9 favorites]


43/55 Mostly the ones I got wrong were the weird viral hoaxes that have nothing to do with actual news. I'd never heard of any of them one way or the other because I'm not on social media much.

Exactly the same here.
posted by busted_crayons at 9:53 AM on January 1


enough people believed them to make them be stories

Like Santa!
posted by LizBoBiz at 11:15 AM on January 2


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