Debunking Internet nonsense is what Snopes.com does every day, of course, but rarely have the site's proprietors been called upon to navigate such a swiftly running stream of bogusness as they have following the March 8 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
And in some cases, rather than perfunctorily stamping these hoaxes "false," Snopes has gone the extra mile to tell us what the images and videos purporting to show Flight 370 actually show. Here are quick summaries of four examples:
'Video' very much not Flight 370
Any reference to "the Bermuda Triangle" should scream fake, naturally, but if that were the case for all denizens of the Internet there would be no need for Snopes. From the site's account of this particular Flight 370 flimflam.
Facebook users begin seeing posts that featured a snapshot of an airliner afloat in water with a caption describing it as the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, supposedly "found in [the] Bermuda Triangle" with "Passengers alive!"
These come-ons typically included titillating tag lines such as "Breaking news video footage of this miracle just released on CNN!" to entice Facebook users to click on hyperlinks in expectation of viewing video footage of this enthralling news story.
The link was to a fake Facebook page featuring your run-of-the-mill scam.
The plane in the picture? That's a Lion Air Boeing 737 that ran out of runway in Bali last April.
No, Israeli intelligence didn't do it
The gist of No. 2, according to Snopes:
On 8 March 2014, the NODISINFO.COM web site published an article positing that the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad sabotaged Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared over the South China Sea on 8 March 2014 with 239 persons (227 passengers and 12 crew members) aboard:
Given that the fate of the plane is unknown, how did Snopes conclude this particular version is untrue (aside from its obvious absurdity)?
It came from a satire site.
... That article was just another spoof from NODISINFO.COM, a web site whose stock in trade is satirizing far-out conspiracy claims by publishing outlandish versions of them (frequently featuring 'zionists' and 'zionist cabals').
Photos are real, just not Flight 370
The third Snopes article features a pair of pictures being circulated through social media that claim to show Flight 370. The first photo, shown here complete with incomprehensibly fake caption, actually depicts one of the most famous near-tragedies in aviation history.
In fact, the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER from Flight MH370 has not yet been located, and no determination has yet been made whether the aircraft crashed (either at sea or on land) or managed to land somewhere. The first photograph shown here is one that was submitted to the New York Times on 15 January 2009 and captures a US Airways jet that made an emergency landing in the Hudson River.
The second picture in this item on Snopes is that same Bali shot from the first example.
Patent conspiracy patently false
Another whopper being circulated via email and Facebook alleges that the plane's disappearance was actually a murderous plot by a Texas semiconductor company to steal the fruit of a "breakthrough" patent. From the Snopes account:
Several days later, a conspiracy theory was floated on the Internet that four of the passengers on that flight were all co-holders of a recently issued, highly valuable patent and the disappearance of Flight 370 was engineered to eliminate them so that remaining co-holder of the patent could reap all the royalties from it for himself. The improbabilities of such a theory are numerous.
Among those improbabilities: There's no evidence that the people named in the patent were aboard the plane, no obvious reason to believe the patent represents a breakthrough, and no reason whatsoever to suspect that the principals of a public company would murder 239 people.
That the Snopes sleuths have the patience for such nonsense is a testament to their diligence.
Now if only they could do something about all the erroneous information about Flight 370 coming at us through the media.
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