Posted in fact checking, fake news

The Bus that changed the history of the UK

As we said before (you can refresh your memory here) Brexit largely encouraged the use of fake news in order to persuade public opinion.

During the election campaign a red bus crossed the United Kingdom with the slogan “We send the EU 350 million pounds a week, fund our NHS (the “National Health Service”) instead.

It was the key pledge of the politicians that campaigned to leave the European Union and Dominic Cummings, Campaign Director of Vote Leave, said that it was a necessary argument to win.
This promise was the reason why a huge part of the electorate voted to leave on 23 June 2016.










But now part of electorate is having to deal with the fact that it was totally fake news, for at least two reasons.

Firstly, it is not accurate to say that Britain will lose £350 million each week – this amount is purely hypothetical.
Since Margaret Thatcher negotiated Britain’s rebate in 1984, the UK obtained a reduction of £4.9 billion membership fee, paying £248 million every week.
Also, like all the other Member Countries of the European Union, the United Kingdom obtains subsidies and financing for around £5.8 billion every year.

With this information which can be found by simply reading the statement on the 2015 EU Budget of the HM Treasury, it is clear that the statement says that the UK pays £136 million to the EU – less than 40 per cent of the amount written on the red bus.

Secondly, more than nine months after the Brexit vote, the NHS system has not received any extra funds.
The day after the EU referendum, Nigel Farage backtracked about this pledge saying that it was not a good idea to use this argument.

On February 7th 2017 the House of Lords discussed an amendment promoted by Labour’s Chuka Umunna, to ask the Prime Minister to set out a plan regarding the promise that was made.
But all those who campaigned with the NHS bus – Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Liam Fox etc. – voted against their own promise, deciding not to honour their pledge.

Posted in fact checking, fake news

When lies become weapons : the “” battle

That’s all for this week.
Be vigilant, beware on fakes and if you spot any disinformation about Ukraine send it to us for a truth autopsy.
Remember, consuming fake news is bad for your health, your brain and for the psychological climate of society.
Be fake free, my friends.

The person who is saying these words is a mustached middle aged man and if you recognize his face and his voice you are probably not scared by his warning tone because you are used to this.
On the other hand if you don’t know him and what “” is don’t worry, it is just because you don’t live in Ukraine in 2017.

As you know, Ukraine is nowadays a war-field.
The conflict began with the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014 and it provoked a huge number of victims, from both the formations.

It is an unusual form of conflict.
In fact not only military and policy are the main players, but also media. For this reason this conflict is called “hybrid war“.




As History teaches us, the fact that a government can lie is not new.
But this time the lie did not need to hide the use of weapons: it had become a weapon itself.
Lies have become the most strategic and difficult weapon to deal with.

Therefore in 2014 a group of students and professors of Kiev Mohyla University’s journalism faculty launched the first site to directly hinder Russian propaganda:

The aim of the website is to have a space where to counterbalance Russian lies and where to”refute disinformation and propaganda about events in Ukraine“.

In this way StopFake has revealed several fake news through a weekly TB bulleting and an active web site (which is avaible in 10 different languages).

Just a few examples of what does everyday:

  • There was an image of an Ukrainian soldier snapping the arms and the legs to a pro-Russia militant and StopFake explained that it was a picture shoot in a set of a Russian horror film of few years before. [For the Italian friends, Marta Franca of “Movimento 5 stelle” spoke about this picture during her speech in the “Camera dei Deputati” reporting the inhumane Ukrainan violence].
  • On the Russian “channel one” on July 12th  it was shown as some Ukrainian soldiers had crucified a boy, after murder his mother.
    In this case StopFake has revealed as Galina Pyshniak, the woman interviewed by the Russian Channel reporting this fact, had already compared in other Russian propaganda videos with other names because she is an actress.
  • Russian Defense Ministry television channel Zvezda declared few days ago that Ukraine has no money to conduct the 2017 Eurovision song contest and the Ukrainian website clarifies why this sentence is wrong. also has an educational purpose: give to the readers the possibility to learn themselves how to  how to recognise fake news( How to verify YouTube videoshow to report fake news to social media, how Fake Stories Reported in Russia’s News Media Regularly Fool Everyone), in order to live better.

Moscow has itself often been accused of using propaganda and false information not only in reporting the conflict in Ukraine but also to influence the US presidential election..



Posted in FACEBOOK, fact checking

Facebook started its quiet revolution

Something memorable has happened: at least Facebook has taken an active part against the circulation of fake news.

For the first time the social network has marked as “disputed” an article about Trump published by “The Seattle Tribune“.

According to the author of the accused piece Lucas Bagwell, the several leaks of confidential information about the president would come from the fact that he is using an unsafe Android smartphone – and in this way someone would have managed to force secret data and information.

The website where it appeared  has a layout similar to other media agencies and it has also the motto”Informing the Nation“.
Despite this fact “The Seattle Tribune” is in reality just a little more than a blog and as a matter of fact if you read well it would be clear that it is a satirical publication.

However it is probably difficult to score in this article the satirical intent at the first look and define it “fake news” because of its journalistic aspect thanks to its length and its abundance of links.
Bagwell also quoted two security agencies that unfortunately do not exist (despite their perfectly invented professional names ).
So it is not just a false report, but it is artfully constructed to look like real news article.

Now, what makes this story different from all those concerning false news circulating on Facebook and creating mess on the information world is that on Friday march 2nd (the article was published on february 26) in the United States a red light appeared under this article indicating that it is an unverified news.


Sorry, “disputed” news.

According to fact checking sites Politifact (that we have already covered in this blog) and Snopes this news is completely false (you can read their justification here and here ).

After the controversy about the role that disinformation is considered to have had in the last American election campaign, Facebook had promised that it would taken a stand against the dissemination of false news.

Therefore, it elaborated a clear process against fake news: everything starts with a report from community members or by an analysis carried out by a the software, and only after the news is examined  by fact-checking agencies as Snopes, Politifact or Correctiv.
If they are all agree about the untruth of the news  it is  reported as “disputed”.

The choice of the word “disputed” has been contested because of its affinity to the concept of “alternative facts” and for the fact that it does not mean exactly “false”.

Is it just a drop in the ocean or this innovation will change rapidly the way in which we inform and trust between ourselves?

At this time I do not know it, but what it is certainly a fact is that it is the first time since its birth in 2004 that Faceboook has made something intense like this.

And we believe in facts, don’t we?




Posted in fact checking, fake news

Why you are here

Post-truth, fact-checking and fake news: these are just some of the words that are giving direction of our modern time.
But what do they mean?
Do we really have to know what they means or can do without it?
Do they really change the way in which we inform daily nowadays and the way we trust each other?
Is it useful spend our life times to understand what they means or they are just simple short-lived phenomena of this historical period?

To these and others question we’ll try to answer, together with your comments, weekly discovering what’s upping in the news word.
Every blogs will make us more able to unravel these concepts, starting from this one.

So, let’s start!

What’s a fake news?
More or less, it looks like this:
(Here you can find more information about this story)

Why are we talking about Post-truth?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, which declared it the Word of the Year 2016, post-truth is

an adjective defined as relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief

During 2016 its usage exploded by 2,000%, based on their ongoing monitoring  of how people are using English.
Before 2016 this word was probably more useless than mischance or worrit.
As you can image Oxford dictionary’s choice was influenced by the electoral victories of Brexit in United Kindom and Donald Trump in the United States.
Infact both these results are examples of how influencing can be the circulation of false information (fake news) and the complete lack of “fact-checking” by voters, that is to verify the truthfulness of the information.
We have seen that fake news on money spent by Britain for Europe (verifiable data) has moved in part the Brexit.
We have seen that it’s possible to question the place of birth of a US citizen (verifiavle data) and influence the election of the US president.

What’s “fact-checking”?
In the words of the Cambridge dictionary fact-chech is:

to check that all the facts in a piece of writing, a news article, a speech , etc. are correct

Fact-checking is the field in which we separate news from views, facts from opinions.
At the moment it is a trendic topic because it’s  really connected to the future of journalism.

No one knows how it will be in the future, but several newspapers in recent years have decided to dedicate – a part of or all- their time to do a good fact checking

Since ten years everyday Politifac  evaluates the accuracy of declarations by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics.
In 2008 the american website won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for the presidential elections. analyses the major claims of politicians with a “Truth-O-Meter” and it classifies them from “True” to Pants on fire”.

Also Channel4The Guardian and other british newspapers are focused on fact-checking but we will will return on the subject more accurately in the next blogs here on thebufalas.