UberFacts, a fun Twitter account that posits quirky factoids to its followers, has finally passed Gizmodo’s fact check.
The leading tech blog fact-checked UberFacts on three different occasions last year, and failed it three times. In March of 2014, only 59% of its tweets were found to be true. In June, 62% were true. Then in December, 64% were accurate. After this most recent check, however, fully 80% of its facts were correct.
However, this still means that a solid one in five UberFacts aren’t really factual. This doesn’t mean that they’re entirely false, just incorrect or partially incorrect. For example, UberFacts reported that “When threatened, ferrets will do a cute little dance to put their prey into a trance.” It is true that ferrets do a little dance, but it’s actually a predatory behavior, not a defense mechanism.
While the passing grade is certainly laudatory, it highlights a bigger issue: the amount of misinformation on the web. Currently, there are about 4.49 billion web pages on the Internet. If just 0.004% of the total Internet was incorrect, then some 200 Terabytes worth of data — 204,800 gigs — would be false. It would literally be as though the entire breadth of Google’s index was incorrect.
Although it’s virtually impossible to measure the sheer amount of misinformation on the web, it’s quite likely that there’s a lot more incorrect or outright untruthful information out there. A survey by the website emedia reports that 31% of social media users have entered false information about themselves in an effort to protect their identity.
Wikipedia’s “Reliability of Wikipedia” claims that Wikipedia is fairly reliable, a declaration that should probably be taken with a grain of salt. The page reports that a study in the journal Nature claimed Wikipedia’s scientific articles were nearly as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica’s, and had a similarly low rate of “serious errors.” Another study by IBM researchers found that “vandalism is usually repaired extremely quickly—so quickly that most users will never see its effects,” concluding Wikipedia had “surprisingly effective self-healing capabilities.” Another peer-reviewed study from 2007 claimed that “42% of damage is repaired almost immediately… Nonetheless, there are still hundreds of millions of damaged views.”
The moral of the story here, it seems, is that there’s a lot of information out there on the Internet, much of which may be false, so it’s always best to fact-check. Even if the source is UberFacts.