How to stop a rumor online

Take the reports—false reports, it turns out—that Durex is making a pumpkin-spice condom: Through Emergent.info, you can see who repeated the rumor, who checked it, and who debunked it. Or take, more seriously, the stories that emerged last week claiming that a meteorite had landed in Nicaragua. (That rumor is still listed as unverified on Emergent.info, because no one has been able to prove that such a meteorite actually fell.) Or take, even more seriously, the claim made earlier this month that the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed in a U.S. airstrike. He had not; Emergent.info lists the rumor as “confirmed false.”

A challenge news organizations face when it comes to rumor-reporting in particular is the fact that rumors tend to be much more shareable—and much more clickable—than corrections. Take your friend and mine, Ms. Tampa Triple-Breast (self-given pseudonym: Jasmine Tridevil). One of the early stories about her, in the New York Post, got 40,000 shares. The Snopes article (mostly) debunking the initial story had 12,500 shares—a decent amount for a story that is, technically, a non-story.

For the most part, though, the articles debunking the rumor get extremely little attention.