Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

December 28, 2013

Fact Check: Debunking myths spread on social media

By PolitiFact.com

People can spread falsehoods via social media faster than we can debunk (or confirm) them. But we keep trying anyway. Here are more than a dozen claims that spread virally through chain emails, Facebook posts and other Internet—based media.

Guns

n Facebook post: In 2011, more people were murdered with knives, “hands or feet” or “clubs and hammers” than with any type of rifle.

The post used data selectively, ignoring the significant role of handguns in gun violence.

But the statistics it mentions are solid. FBI data backs up the Facebook post’s claim that in 2011, more people were murdered with knives, “hands or feet” or “clubs and hammers” than with any type of rifle.

We rated it True.

n Chain email: A United Nations working group has “adopted a proposed agenda” to enable member nations to “disarm civilians within their borders.”

If the document were real, it would confirm the worst fears of those who fear a mass confiscation of handguns, hunting rifles and ammunition in the U.S. — but a United Nations spokesman cited several reasons for concluding that the document is a fake, including the fact that the study group referenced in the document does not exist.

We rated it Pants on Fire.

Health care

n Facebook post: Congress, criminals, Scientologists and other groups are exempt from Obamacare.

The Internet meme rattled off a list of groups that are and are not exempt from the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

It’s true that Obama and Biden don’t need to buy insurance on the marketplaces, but they’re not exempt from fines if they don’t have coverage.

Prisoners and American Indians are in fact exempt, but they still have health care of some sort.

Members of a small number of religious groups can receive exemptions if they have formal objections to medical care or health insurance, but we found no evidence that Muslims or Scientologists meet that criteria.

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