“20 Priests Connected To Vatican Pedophile Ring Killed In Plane Crash“. The LA-based blog yournewswire.com has already gathered more than 87,000 Facebook engagements with this post published 6 days ago.
The well written piece, which revolves around a plane crash in Cuba, adds a a made-up conspiracy theory in the mix (only if in the title and a single phrase in the post content) but just enough to gather huge traction on Facebook.
The Content Quality Score for this article is quite high: 60%. That’s because it wasn’t written in a click-bait style, it contained lots of information (picked up by an article it references: “20 priests among dead, 3 survivors ‘critical’ in Havana plane crash”) and it has an overall negative polarity (sentiment analysis), which is not uncommon given the IAB category: rescue.
But what really stands out is the graph analysis and the determined Patient Zero. It is typically very difficult to spot misinformation when the content quality of the article is medium or high. In this case, the investigation approach relies on analyzing the article graph that is built by finding and linking references and hyperlinks found in the article, and even very similar content published in a close-enough time frame:
Here, we can see the yournewswire.com article highlighted in green, with it’s Patient Zero marked in red. There is an explicit link between the two articles, meaning the yournewswire.com article contains a hyperlink to the Dallas News article, the two articles having a 86% semantic similarity. The part where they are not similar is exactly the information regarding the pedophile priests.
If we further analyze the Article Graph, we notice that the entire story is actually made up of a couple of sub-stories:
A story where the main source is an Associated Press article Passenger jet crashes near Havana with at least 110 aboard referenced by 13 other articles:
An older story about a sex abuse scandal and cover-up in Chile, that led to the resigning of 34 Catholic Bishops:
These 2 sub-stories, the plane crash in Cuba and the sex abuse scandal in Chile, were merged into a single story by yournewswire.com, although there is no obvious connection between the two.
The automatically extracted named entities does not even contain entities that would indicate that any information was even picked up from the Chile sex abuse sub-story. Linking to this story was done only to expand the story of the Cuba plane crash with no real reason, resulting a fake news article that is not only difficult to analyze, but has gained huge traction on Facebook.