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May 8 / King Kaufman

A handy 5-step guide to avoid being fooled by online bull

Verification of online information is such a huge part of what we do at Bleacher Report, and what a lot of people do at a lot of websites, that we can never talk about it too much. So when someone has a good idea about how to make sure you’re not getting bamboozled, I like to point it out.

Last month, Michelle Nijhuis, a “lapsed biologist” who writes about conservation and global change among other subjects, posted The Pocket Guide to Bullshit Prevention on the blog The Last Word on Nothing.

Also known as the Bullshit Prevention Protocol (BPP), Nijhuis’ method came to my attention when it was reposted by Slate.

It’s a handy guide that you can clip and save. It even comes with one of those dotted lines-and-scissors graphics. Here it is:

1. Who is telling me this?

2. How does he or she know this?

3. Given #1 and #2, is it possible that she or he is wrong?

4. If answer to #3 is “yes,” find another, unrelated source.

5. Repeat until answer to #3 is “pretty f-ing unlikely.”

Until process is complete, assume bullshit

Nijhuis writes that, despite being a person who makes mistakes all the time, “I am not often—knock wood—wrong in print, and that’s because, as a journalist, I’ve had advanced training in Bullshit Prevention Protocol (BPP).”

In the post, she reviews how the BPP kept her from repeating a story that was going around about how China had begun televising sunsets on giant TV screens in Beijing because the city too clouded in smog for people to see the sun set in real life.

That story, still up and uncorrected at the Daily Mail, turned out to be, well, you know.