4 Tips For Avoiding Online Misinfo About Gas Prices

No. 1: Don’t draw broad conclusions on the fuel economy based on one or a few pictures of gas station signs.

Published Jun 8, 2022

commercial illustrator (Getty Images)
commercial illustrator (Image Via Getty Images)

Gas prices have long been the subject of fake photographs and misleading memes online.

Take this Facebook meme, for instance, that attempted to compare two pictures of U.S. gas prices under U.S. President Joe Biden and his predecessor, Donald Trump — in reality, the photographs showed fuel costs under Trump and former president Barack Obama. Or another meme that tried to compare pictures of two gas stations that were likely taken at different times in different states.

And then there are flatout fake claims, like this tweet from about two months ago that attributed a made-up quote about gas prices to U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.

More recently, readers asked us to fact-check this digitally altered picture that attempted to trick people into thinking a digital screen at a Costco Wholesale gas pump read, “Don’t blame us. Blame Joe Biden.” Spoiler alert: It didn’t.

To guard yourself against this genre of misinformation:

  • Don’t draw broad conclusions on the fuel economy based on one or a few gas station pictures. This piece of advice came into play when we fact-checked photographs of a Los Angeles gas station that onlookers believed represented the high cost of fuel across California. Ultimately, though, the L.A. gas station had a reputation for being much more expensive than surrounding gas stations. 
  • Be skeptical of posts that blame one person or entity for high prices. The ups and downs of gasoline prices aren’t necessarily functions of policies by U.S. presidential administrations; a myriad of factors within the global economy are part of the equation. Also, various reasons can explain why gas station owners set their prices higher or lower, possibly making costs vary across small geographic areas. 
  • Check AAA for reliable price data. The AAA website has an interactive database of average fuel costs so you can see where, or how fast, they are rising. 
  • Question posts that attribute quotes about fuel costs to a specific person. Unless you find an article on a credible news outlet or a transcript that contains the alleged passage, it’s possible that it was made up. That happened this week with a viral post supposedly authored by “a BP oil executive named Brice Cromwell,” when, as far as we could tell, that person didn’t exist.

    — Snopes' archives contributed to this report.

These tips originally appeared in the June 9, 2022, issue of Snopes' political newsletter. Subscribe to that email list for free.

This page is part of an ongoing effort by the Snopes newsroom to teach the public the ins and outs of online fact-checking and, as a result, strengthen people's media literacy skillsMisinformation is everyone’s problem. The more we can all get involved, the better job we can do combating it. Have a question about how we do what we do? Let us know.

Jessica Lee is Snopes' Senior Assignments Editor with expertise in investigative storytelling, media literacy advocacy and digital audience engagement.

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