Cumberland County was swirling with excitement Wednesday afternoon when a Facebook page claiming to be affiliated with the city of Crossville Codes Enforcement office posted that Aldi would be coming to Crossville.
People shared the post and it soon had been viewed more than 10,000 times. People dreamed of bringing their shopping bags to the discount grocer and loading up on grocery staples and natural and organic products you might not find elsewhere.
The only problem was, it wasn’t true.
The page was created as a satirical page. It said so in its “about” section.
When Chronicle reporters first saw the post, we were surprised. Why would codes be making such an announcement?
Crossville Mayor James Mayberry soon addressed the situation.
This wasn’t a city of Crossville page. Codes enforcement doesn’t have any social media outlets.
The site was soon taken down by Facebook for being a fake page. The administrators posted a followup admitting to what it had done.
“The description of this page says that it’s satirical. Most people would have overlooked that and believed it anyway. That’s a problem. Our democracy, our society, and our culture are all entirely dependent on the ability of the general populace to be able to sort out fact from fiction. Please learn from this example, and check your sources.”
We do not condone playing such a trick on the people of this community, but the situation does demonstrate the old adage, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”
Social media makes it much easier for people to spread lies. Some are silly or of little consequence. Some serve no purpose but to further divide people. Some are based on a sliver of truth that’s so distorted you can’t make out what’s real and what’s not.
And some are crazy conspiracy theories that find a foothold and never go away — like the idea that the pope was found guilty of child trafficking, First Lady Melania Trump banned White House staff from getting flu shots or that CNN was raided by the FCC for deceiving the American public. In case it wasn’t clear from the context of this paragraph — none of those things actually happened.
There are things you can do to help stop fake news. Be skeptical about your sources, and seek out a variety of viewpoints. Limiting yourself to Vice News or Breitbart will not serve you or our country well.
Check the page you’re sharing news from. Scammers, pranksters and outright liars have become more sophisticated in copying legitimate news organization websites. You may think you’re on a real news site only to find out it’s not real.
Read the whole story — not just the headline, and check out the other links on the site. Does anything seem a little “off”? Dig a little deeper. Do they have an “about” section? Do they tell you who they are? Is the information current? Is the information supported by other sources — and a variety of sources? Do people back up their claims with facts?
We can all do our part to make sure we don’t fall victim to hoaxes, scams and lies by using some critical-thinking skills and a little investigation.
As for whether or not Aldi will actually be coming to Crossville, that remains to be seen. We know a developer is looking at property. We don’t know what they plan to put there.
When a company is ready to make an announcement, we’ll let you know — with credible sources.