"Reining In the Rumor About EPA 'Drones'"

"It was a blood-boiler of a story, a menacing tale of government gone too far: The Environmental Protection Agency was spying on Midwestern farmers with the same aerial 'drones' used to kill terrorists overseas. This month, the idea has been repeated in TV segments, on multiple blogs and by at least four congressmen. The only trouble is, it isn't true."

"It was never true. The EPA isn't using drone aircraft -- in the Midwest or anywhere else.

The hubbub over nonexistent drones provides a look at something hard to capture in American politics: the vibrant, almost viral, life cycle of a falsehood. This one seems to have been born less than three weeks ago, in tweets and blog posts that twisted the details of a real news story about EPA inspectors flying in small planes.

Then the falsehood spread, via conservative Web sites, mentions on Fox News Channel and Comedy Central's 'The Daily Show,' and the endless replication of Twitter. In its mature stage, the idea was sustained by a digital echo chamber. Congressmen repeated false reports -- and then new reports appeared, based on the congressmen."

David A. Fahrenthold reports for the Washington Post June 16, 2012.

 

Monday, June 18, 2012