Half the internet went wild when the news broke that Wayne Knight the actor who played Newman from Seinfeld had died over the weekend. Later reporting including some sardonic tweets from the man himself proved the entire story was just a hoax.
I suppose some middle school student somewhere once mistook the endangered pacific northwest tree octopus for a real animal and the ‘dangers’ of DHMO have now been thoroughly explored. But this ‘Newman’ story is about adults worrying about adult things like life and death – surely nobody was really fooled by these claims?
In case you were hoodwinked (or you’re worried your students might be) here are four tricks you can use to test the credibility of any website and prove ‘Newman’ isn’t dead:
Read the URL – the fake web site behind the rumor had the web address of ‘usmagizine.us’ which is slightly suspicious. A ‘.us’ suffix isn’t what I would expect from a major news outlet which should probably end in ‘.com.’ Bottom line: URL’s usually tell you something about the site… this one doesn’t.
Tweet it? No Thanks – the social media links on this article head to social media accounts with suspiciously few followers. Probably because they aren’t the real accounts. Bottom line: outbound and inbound links should be consistent with the rest of the site… these aren’t.
Ask the Author… Or Not – a big signal the article is fake is the lack of an author. In fact every article on the site lacks an author… and the oldest piece was published on March 14th… something fishy is going on here. Bottom line: credible articles have authors… this one doesn’t.
EasyWhoIs – A quick check of the EasyWhoIs record indicates the site was registered on March 15th of this year by a gentleman in Texas… or the Virgin Islands? Bottom line: an easywhois record doesn’t lie.
This site seems to be perpetuating a relatively harmless hoax (unless you were Knight’s mother and were concerned by the breaking ‘news’) but there are plenty of things on the internet that are downright scary and masquerading as credible sources.
What do you think? Were you taken in by this hoax? How do you educate your students about credible sources on the internet? Let us know in the comments!