It's a scenario that fact checkers at Snopes know all too well: a casual scroll of social media that turns into public records requests, calls to federal government officials, data analysis, or other types of research.
Sometimes, our work to determine the legitimacy of online content — whether TikTok videos, Reddit threads, Facebook posts, etc. — gets complicated as we learn more about a particular claim. What can seem on the surface to be a simple "true" or "false" fact check can turn into a multi-pronged, complex research project that spans days, weeks, or even months.
Below are some examples of that type of rumor that took us down some deep rabbit holes of research.
The list is part of our annual review of Snopes’ content in which staff members identified 2021 pieces that stood out to them. You can read all of our “Staff Picks & Standouts” for a variety of content categories here.
[See also: 2021 Greatest Hits: Investigations from Snopes]
For years, a baseless conspiracy theory has circulated online alleging that Leno lost the gig because of his comments about Obama.
Mixture. Louis Sockalexis was believed to be the first acknowledged Native American to play in the major leagues.
Mixture. In August 2021, a viral photo showed a woman in medical scrubs who opposed vaccine mandates, claiming she had treated COVID-19 patients for “573 days” without suffering any harm.
Right-wing commentators seized upon a “college pledge” sent to white residents of a wealthy Dallas neighborhood. But all was not as it seemed.
False. Gosiame Thamara Sithole made headlines around the world in June 2021.
Mixture. Allocated government funds for the experiments reportedly totaled more than $1.8 million.
The claim is largely based on two observational reports published in peer-reviewed medical journals and not the results of a regimented scientific study. This suggests a correlation and one possible explanation, but it does not prove a causation.
Correct attribution. The former pharmaceutical employee has spouted widely discredited conspiracy theories.
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