Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Snopes.com: To Verify If That Hysterical Email Is Fact Or Fabrication.

Here is the link to snopes.com "content" page. This covers their philosophy and policies.

We all have friends who send us email when they learn of something they feel is noteworthy. As a Christian, I am called upon, from time to time, to get involved in petition-signing and / or a letter whiting campaigns. I've even re-published personal correspondence on this blog - after securing permission.

The first thing I look for in any correspondence is who wrote this AND who will receive my petition, or letter-sign-on. Two emails came to me recently which disturbed me enough to consider passing them on to a friend. A friend, who is too busy to have his time wasted via flim-flam.

I couldn't find an author / publication citation for a lovely story about 87-year-old Billy Graham leading a walk-through in New Orleans on his scooter. This was a thrilling account which would have gotten into some news story. The point of the email was that since NO PRESS reported this story, we need to get hot and bothered about poor and deliberately slanted press coverage.

No, it wasn't covered, because, although Billy Graham was in New Orleans, there was never the heroic walk-through with 25,000 people (after his crusade). These facts were verified by The Billy Graham Assoc.Thankfully, going to snopes.com and searching for "Billy Graham" brought up this story as the first entry. Once visiting the story's investigation page, I discovered the walk-through to be a fabrication. I was prevented from spreading falsehood and wasting my time, as well as the time of my friends.

The second hysterical email alerted me to the pending demise of all Christian Radio. Specifically, it would become illegal to broadcast any reading of the Bible over the public airwaves. Since I enjoy listening to Christian Radio, I got geared up to sign the email petition and forward it to everyone I thought might care enough to participate. I was also planning on reproducing the email on this blog, to further enlarge the scope of an effort to save Christian Radio.

Again, I went to snopes.com, searching the term "christian radio" Bingo! First story cited was this troubling petition. It is a really old hoax which has morphed into various forms, over the years. The FCC has tried in vain to clear itself of this insanity. When the Government needs a good hand slapping, I say: Let's Go! But, millions of letters, phone calls and emails have bombarded the FCC over a hoax! What a sad waste of people's trust and good name. I actually found myself feeling a bit sorry for the FCC being buried in this well-meaning, but misguided grass roots campaign.

I found snopes.com through a science site that was attempting to disprove some of the fluky "cure" claimo of the alternative medicinemovement. snopes.com appears to have no axe to grind. If its a real story, they guide you back to the original story and publication. If its fake, they document who they contacted and what they discovered.

I always look for the name of an author, or authoring organization. (ABC, BBC, or The San Francisco Chronicle, for example). If there's a citation, I go to the net and retrieve the original post. I then contact the author to get permission to re-publish on this blog.

I also check where my response email (and requested information) is GOING. Who gets my response? Usually you are to forward the correspondence to all your friends AND some other person or organization. If I don't see something, or someone who looks familiar, or is associated with the story. I don't reply.

Once the email is determined to be a probable hoax, I search for the story via the Internet, and the pro ported organization. When that turns up empty, I turn to snopes.com.

What's to stop someone from "pretending" to be from the BBC, etc.? Nothing, in the beginning. But, once the BBC is alerted to the evidence of someone writing things using their name without permission, lawyers become involved quickly. Why? The BBC can't afford to NOT be a credible news source. It doesn't take long for a hoax to travel around the world. I'm sure the BBC would take swift and decisive action against someone pretending to be one of their reporters, when they weren't on staff.

As the sign-off for a police podcast says: "Be careful out there".

No comments: