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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Can You Handle The Truth?: PolitiFact California Fact Checks Wildfire Misinformation

 September 24, 2020 at 10:25 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Misinformation is continuing to spread on social media about the wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington. To talk about that cap radio's PolitiFact, California reporter Chris Nichols joins Mike Haggerty. Fourth, can you handle the truth, a weekly conversation about his latest fact checks. Speaker 2: 00:19 Chris, last week, you talked about some false claims related to the start of these fires. What'd you find this week? Well, PolitiFact is finding even more rumors about the start of these fires. Last week, we reported that the FBI in Portland had debunked claims that Antifa was starting wildfires on the West coast. The FBI even asked people to stop sharing misinformation on social media because these false reports were taking valuable time away from the agencies fighting the fires. And this week we found a new set of viral posts that blame a California man for lighting more than 30 fires this year, they show a mugshot of the man and call him mr. Climate change. And that's an effort to push back against what scientists agree is the contributing role climate change plays in making these fires worse. The problem with these posts is that the man pictured has been incarcerated for the past two years at a mental health facility for inmates in Stockton. Speaker 2: 01:22 He was convicted of starting nine fires in Southern California two years ago, but he's played no role in the fires this year. And so PolitiFact rated these claims false press. You also found that social media users, including a prominent actor, were sharing a misleading map of the fires. Can you tell us more about that? That's right. The actor James Woods, and many other people shared a map that they suggested disproves claims that the fires are connected to climate change. The map shows fires stopping at the border with Canada and woods, even tweeted quote, Hey, governor Newsome. Why does climate change stop abruptly at the Canadian border and quote? And now it turns out this map only uses us fire data. And for the record, there have been wildfires in Canada. This summer PolitiFact also rated these claims false. Now there's a claim on Facebook about president Trump and California that you've seen resurface in recent days, which ones that that's right in August. Speaker 2: 02:26 We fact checked a widely shared Facebook posts that alleged the president had denied fire aid to California, but then helped Russia fight wildfires in Siberia. We rated that false when it popped up, but it is circulating again. And some of these really outlandish claims seem to have nine lives. They just appear over and over again. And just to recap on this one, president Trump has repeatedly threatened to withhold federal fire assistance from California. He made a similar threat last month, but he has always approved that aid. And on Russia, it is true that Trump said last year, he offered Russia help with its fires in Siberia. We found no evidence that he actually followed through. Chris, can you remind our listeners how this new cap radio initiative works? How you go about fact checking misinformation on Facebook and other social media platforms? Well, it's no secret that the posts and information on Facebook, whether fact or fiction can influence what people believe and how they act. We want to hold Facebook users accountable to the truth, especially during this election season. And that's why cap radios, PolitiFact California is focusing on Facebook to fact check false news and misinformation. This includes posts on the Facebook and Instagram platforms. Facebook does not decide what cap radio should fact check nor does it have a role in the ratings we select that's it for this week's can you handle the truth? Our weekly PolitiFact, California conversation. You can find all our fact checks@cappradio.org and politifact.com/california. Thanks Chris. Thanks Mike. Speaker 1: 04:10 That's it for this week's. Can you handle the truth? Our weekly PolitiFact, California conversation. You can find all our fact checks@cappradio.org and politifact.com/california.

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Misinformation is continuing to spread on social media about the wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments