(CNN) — Intentionally or not, the latest round of misleading stories making viral waves has made it harder to tell truth from fiction.
Here’s a quick guide to some of the most viral fake stories this week:
No, Facebook is not going to start charging you. Facebook even created a help page just to say this: “Facebook is a free site and will never require that you pay to continue using the site.”
The page then goes on to explain that, yes, you may pay money for some games and other apps you play on the site. And if you go over your mobile phone’s data limit while using Facebook, you’ll have to pay for that, too.
That still too vague for you? Maybe leaves a little too much wiggle room? Well, then, let’s try this entry under Common Myths About Facebook.
Question: Will Facebook ever charge for service?
Answers: No. We will always keep Facebook a free service for everyone.
When contacted, a Facebook spokeswoman simply pointed to those two entries instead of providing a response. We’re guessing if someone had to answer this question for Facebook every time it came up, it would be a full-time job.
Obamacare and Ebola coverage
There’s no reason to think your health insurance would treat a case of Ebola any differently than it would any other illness because of Obamacare. But a false viral story making the rounds may have some people convinced otherwise.
And, for that, we can thank National Report.
That was where the most recent “pay for Facebook” story originated, and it’s where this doozy comes from, too.
National Report is a satire site, though it’s sometimes hard to tell if you just breeze through the headline and first few sentences of a story.
We all know The Onion is fake news. (Well, almost all of us, anyway). But sites such as National Report and The Daily Currant aren’t so well-known or, for that matter, nearly as funny.
In fact, the more cynical among us may think these sites are intentionally trying to drive traffic by pushing out seemingly real stories about hot topics.
You know … like how a controversial government policy addresses an unprecedented and frightening, if isolated, disease outbreak.
NBA, NFL, Congress … or none of the above?
If you like football and you hate Congress, well, welcome to 97% of the population of the United States. (Full disclosure: We made up that statistic.)
But if you responded to the NFL’s recent off-the-field troubles by sharing a post that shows that our lawmakers are bigger lawbreakers than our football stars, you fell for a fake.
The good people at Snopes, the Web’s BS meter since 1995, are all over this one, as is PolitiFact.
The so-called statistics — 36 members of Congress have been accused of spousal abuse, three have been in jail for assault, 84 were arrested for drunk driving in a single year — change from version to version. But these figures all go back to a 1999 online article that provided no source for its statistics and named none of the supposedly corrupt members of Congress.
Under scrutiny, it was later retracted.
Sorry, Pluto’s still not a planet
But some smart people say it should be. So there’s that.
Space geeks everywhere were saddened in 2006 when Pluto lost its status as our solar system’s ninth planet.
So you can forgive them, perhaps for jumping the gun on social media when news appeared to hit recently that the tiny, chilly chunk of rock has been restored to its rightful place.
Call this one a combination of enthusiasm, confusion and exaggeration.
What actually happened was that the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics held a September 18 debate on whether Pluto should be restored to its full glory and four days later released the results of a vote by the audience.
But in reporting that event, which has no official influence, many blogs and news sites appeared to go a bit too far, at least with their headlines.
“The People Have Voted: Pluto is a Planet!” Time blared. “Pluto Is a Planet Again, According to Harvard Astronomers,” another blog announced.
So you can see how some of us who grew up with “Interplanet Janet” rushed to the incorrect conclusion that we have “nine planets large and small” again.
Here’s an extra Facebook hoax we just had to tell you about.
Don’t microwave your iPhone
When Apple’s iOS 8, the new operating system for mobile devices such as its new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, rolled out this month, some of the online message board’s notorious pranksters greeted it by crafting a fake ad for a new service.
Wave, according to what we have to admit was a pretty authentic looking ad done in Apple’s trademark style, is a feature that “allows your device to be charged wirelessly through microwave frequencies.”
Just pop your phone in the microwave, and the battery will be all charged up.