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Alt News
Don’t Believe Everything You Read Online
September 9, 2012
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U.S. congressman Todd Akin made headlines in August for his comments about rape and female sexuality. But did you know he also believes that ingesting breast milk can cure homosexuality?

If you have doubts about that story, you should - it's not true.

The story that Mr. Akin believes breast milk can "cure homosexuality" comes from a post on satire site 'The Daily Currant.' The post was intended as a joke. But many people shared it via social media as if it was hard news.

Looking at the story, you might not realize right away that it's satire (until you notice the slogan in the top right corner):


Confusion about what's real and what's invented is getting more common. Luke Allnutt, editor in chief of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's English website, thinks it's easier to take what we read at face value these days thanks to "the popularity, spread, and click dynamics of social media."

Because the links people share don't always come with clear context - people don't usually say "this is a satirical article," even if they know it is - it's not always easy to decide what's real and what's invented.

Allnutt received the Akin link from a friend who is "a savvy consumer of U.S. political news" - he trusted the social media source, so he didn't think too hard about where the original information came from.

In the case of the Akin story, the original site never intended to fool people - the Daily Currant is very open about being a satire site. But some groups are using the echo chamber effect of the internet to intentionally deceive people in order to raise awareness of their cause.

For instance, Greenpeace, working with professional hoaxers The Yes Men, set up a website called "Arctic Ready" spoofing the official Shell site, with fake advertisements about the company's plans to drill in the Arctic. Then they set up a fake Twitter account to deal with the fallout from the fake ads.

The site, which featured slickly produced videos and graphics in the style of Shell's official website, fooled many people online. It also received 1.8 million page views in two days.


If the goal for Greenpeace was to spread their message about the dangers of Arctic drilling, the campaign was a success. But it might not be entirely legal.

According to Anita Ramasastry, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law, "The line between, on one hand, legitimate protest through parody, and, on the other, libelous misrepresentation or trademark infringement is muddy." Intentionally misleading people as to what's real and what's fake could land people in serious trouble.

Of course, there's also a funny side to people misinterpreting parody as reality. is a website dedicated to gathering examples of people who think articles from satirical website 'The Onion' are real.

Although it can be hard to figure out exactly what's real on the web, all of us should at least do our best not to end up on Literally Unbelievable. Check out a few examples below:




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