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Hoax Alert

Fake Headline: Deep State NOT PROVEN To Have Sent Explosive Packages To Themselves In Hopes Of Stopping Red Wave

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Thu, 25 Oct 2018 13:46:46 Z)

Did so-called deep-state operatives send bombs to several prominent Democrats hoping to influence the outcome of the upcoming midterm elections? Nobody knows yet: at this point no investigation has been able to definitively prove who sent the bomb packages or why. That didn't stop an article with a headline that claimed to know it was the "deep state" from going massively viral, despite a complete lack of actual evidence in the body of the article.

The story originated from an article published on blog named "End Of The Age" October 24, 2018 titled "DEEP STATE SENDING EXPLOSIVE PACKAGES TO THEMSELVES, IN HOPES OF STOPPING RED WAVE" (archived here) which opened:

🚨DEEP STATE FALSE FLAG TO FRAME REPUBLICANS🚨: Could there be some nutjob Republican behind the recent spate of explosive devices being sent to high-profile DEEP STATE Democrat operatives over the past 24 hours? Sure, that could be true. BUT, could it also be possible that these devices are being sent by desperate DEEP STATE Democrats who, watching the ever-rising Red Wave, seeking to stop it, by framing Republicans, by being behind this?

Screenshot of https://endoftheageheadlines.wordpress.com/2018/10/24/deep-state-sending-explosive-packages-to-themselves-in-hopes-of-stopping-red-wave/

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

DEEP STATE SENDING EXPLOSIVE PACKAGES TO THEMSELVES, IN HOPES OF STOPPING RED WAVE

????DEEP STATE FALSE FLAG TO FRAME REPUBLICANS????: Could there be some nutjob Republican behind the recent spate of explosive devices being sent to high-profile DEEP STATE Democrat operatives over the p...

Careful reading of the article shows it contains no actual proof for the claim made in the headline, just a lot of speculation. Lots of "could" and "possible" and a call for investigators to look into things, along with examples of some Democrats encouraging physical protests or even violence earlier. But not a shred of actual evidence for what is stated as a fact in the headline of the article.

Under Facebook's new policies for third party fact checkers such a headline would earn the article a demotion in the news feed, reducing its distribution, if a fact checker in the program pointed out the headline was false:

Facebook is now downranking stories with false headlines

As of this week, fact-checking outlets working with Facebook can debunk and slow the spread of headlines that are false even if the whole story isn't - a change that adds nuance to the types of misinformation the platform is asking fact-checkers to flag.

If the headline had been phrased differently, indicating it was a report about someone's opinion or as a speculative statement, there would be far less of a problem from a fact checking perspective. For example "Deep state might have sent..." or "Blogger says the deep state has sent...". The first is a speculation or prediction, which can't be fact checked since it doesn't make a factual claim, and the second one is factually correct in that the blogger did say it (even if what he said is possibly not true).

In any case, whatever your views are on who sent the bombs or why, try to keep an open mind and be very wary of people who claim to know the truth about anything when the actual investigation into the facts has barely begun.

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About the author:

Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk
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