For the course Data and (Mis)communication, four (at that time inexperienced) fact checkers went on an investigation spree. As a fact-checking source, the team chose LADbible, which is a news website that originates from the UK. It has a whopping amount of followers on Facebook, namely 34,5 million, that’s double the amount of Dutch citizens!
LADbible is different from ‘regular news’ platforms like BBC, NOS or Nu.nl. The website focuses on male readers, but according to a recent study, it can also be linked to a broader culture of sexual objectification, which causes sexist and misogynist behaviours (Phipps & Young, 2013). One example of a news article is, for instance, “Important Research Reveals The Favourite And Least Favourite Celebrations” (LADbible, 2018). Besides being a doubtful source, LADbible also uses clickbait as a form of attracting readers. A clickbait is a spicy headline that sparks the interest of potential readers, while at the same time the content of the article can be disappointing for the reader. After finding four articles that raised some serious doubts from reading the title or the introduction, the team was on its way.
All four group members chose one article that raised some serious doubts. After thoroughly reading the articles the fact-checking project could really begin. For this fact-checking project, the Science Literary Project was used as an example of how to do a fact-checking project. We looked up information, checked sources and even sent emails to authors to ask for clarification. The main findings of this fact-checking project can be found below.
The four articles that have been fact-checked are:
- Poo found in ice at Wetherspoon and Slug and Lettuce By BBC Watchdog Investigation
- NASA Releases Picture Of ‘Flying Saucer From Outer Space That Crash-Landed On Earth
- School Bans Pupils From Wearing Expensive Coats To Stop ‘Poverty Shaming’
- American Missionary Killed With Arrows By Tribe On Indian Island
Poo found in ice at Wetherspoon and Slug and Lettuce By BBC Watchdog Investigation
It turns out that the first article ‘Poo found in ice at Wetherspoon and Slug and Lettuce By BBC Watchdog Investigation’ is a solid clickbait. In this case, the content was also less interesting than the title. Instead of poo, there were potentially faecal bacterias found in the ice. The presence of faecal bacteria does not even mean that there are actual poo bacteria. This was not the only hint of unclear information. The article also mentions a ‘paper’ but it is never made clear which paper the author is talking about.
Furthermore, the article contained some half-truths, like the chain named in the article. The faecal bacteria were found in Slug and Lettuce but also at different places in the UK. It turns out that LADbible wanted to attract people with this piece of news, but the content was disappointing and not completely true.
NASA Releases Picture Of ‘Flying Saucer From Outer Space That Crash-Landed On Earth
After fact checking the NASA article, some fragments appeared to not add up. The problem with LADbible is the way they present information. The article seems to give mystery to the events that happened, making the reader unsure if the crash-landing was part of a NASA project or something more. The way the story builds suggesting a UFO, to then claiming it is a NASA mission, and the finally leaving with an ex-NASA employee who thinks the government cover-up ‘such encounters’ can be very misleading and suggestible.
Furthermore, LADbible quoting ‘NASA’ should be more defined, maybe they should instead quote ‘APOD’ as this would be more accurate. The way this article has been written could be seen as a good way to get people to question the news and articles they read, as there are two distinct sides of the story. In the end, it isn’t so much the facts that are untrue, but the way the author presents the information to the reader.
School Bans Pupils From Wearing Expensive Coats To Stop ‘Poverty Shaming’
This article struck the attention of readers by the notion ‘poverty-shaming’. Nowadays different kinds of shaming are trending, but poverty shaming was a new one for us. The article contains true facts, but it is less extensive than similar articles from The Huffington Post or the BBC. This means that the school actually exist and they did alter their uniform policy in an attempt to get a grip on poverty shaming. So, the facts of the articles were true.
The problem with the article is the fact that it presents information vaguely. For instance, when sources are quoted in the article, the author tends to not name names or the platforms from which they cited his quotes. The author simply says ‘a spokesperson’ said […], but this cannot be checked because the name of the source is not mentioned or the event where the alleged spokesperson said this. So, the problem is not the information but the way it is presented; a reader could have serious questions after reading it.
American missionary killed with arrows by tribe on Indian island
There were some problems with the clearness of information in this piece of the article. The article says John was shot with arrows, while what really happened, according to the fishermen, is that he was shot with arrows, then he had a rope tied around his neck and dragged into the jungle. So it is unclear if he was already dead because of arrows or maybe something else happened in the jungle.
The audio in the video was full of misinformation. For example, a big point in the video is that the Sentinelese are the very last tribe ever that has not yet had communication with the outside world, which is false. They are ‘one of the last’ indigenous tribes, but if you go into the Amazon forest or to Papua New Guinea there are some 100 more. Another point that the video makes is how violent the tribe are. The article states that the first ever known encounter with the tribe was violent as those people were attacked by arrows. Again not true. The first contact was made by the British, they abducted six people (two adults and four children) from the tribe and took them to another island. The adults almost immediately died of illness and soon after the children were returned to the island. The final part of the article revolved around what happened in the end. The journalist says that the fishermen returned the next morning to find his body on the seashore. This makes it sound like the fishermen went ashore (which is impossible due to the km wide ban around the island) and also that his body was retrieved. Both of these statements are not true.
So all in all this is not a majorly trustworthy article, it is noteworthy that this article was published 1-2 days before all of the ‘big articles’ and is one of the first articles that says the man was a missionary (most articles before the date name him a ‘tourist’ or just ‘man’), I think that the big articles wanted to fact check some more before they brought the news, maybe this article should have waited for a little bit longer with publishing to get the fact straighter.
It turns out that most of the time the authors of the LADbible team do base their articles on somewhat real information. An example is the article of the American missionary that was killed by arrows. LADbible probably wanted to be the first one to bring this news into the world, but by doing so they misinterpreted some information. Especially the video that was posted with the article stated some untrue information.
The biggest problem with LADbible is the way that they present this information. They use click-baits, ‘forget’ to name sources and are overall not clear in the way they word the articles. This way people are not completely misinformed, but they do not get the real information or the true facts either. So lads, beware, the LADbible is not the only holy book for you!
Phipps, A., & Young, I. (2013). That’s what she said: women students’ experiences of ‘lad
culture’ in higher education.
Jongsma, J. (n.d.). Science Literary Project, retrieved on 2 December 2018 on: http://www.scienceliteracyproject.org/content/fact-checking-essentials