An article circulating on Facebook warning record-breaking snowfall in the upcoming winter season fooled thousands of Facebook users into thinking the end of the world was on its way. In reality, the article was fake — a work of satire from the site EmpireNews.net.
Like the Onion, Empire News provides phony coverage of realistic-seeming topics to parody aspects of real life, especially politics. The disclaimer on the Empire News website reads, “We only use invented names in all our stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized.”
But that didn’t stop plenty of fearful Facebook users from sharing Empire’s recent article claiming that the northeast coast of the United States would get “well above normal snowfall.” According to Fox 31 Denver, the article warned readers that North America would be receiving 20 to 50 times as much snow this winter compared to the previous season.
“In the worst zones, you could see 50 times the amount of snow you’ve had in the past,” a fake climate scientist in the article says. “This is the type of winter the American public needs to prepare for.”
The article then goes on to state the record-breaking snowfall could continue all the way into next summer.
While climate change has resulted in some record-breaking weather anomalies, these claims are nowhere near accurate.
As part of the humor and satire, the article also claimed that bread and milk prices would triple as a result of the record-breaking increase in snowfall.
Satirical news sites like Empire News and the Onion are intended to illuminate the absurd and ridiculous parts of reality by exaggerating them to an unbelievable degree. In this case, the massive spike in snowfall was playing into the scare tactics the media uses to frighten people about natural disasters, and the overreactions people have to various reports. This article in particular seems to be parodying the way certain media outlets warn against global warming and/or the way others claim climate change is a hoax because of increases in snow and low temperatures. However, the effect of the satire is somewhat diminished when people actually believe it.
KETV reported on the fake record-breaking snowfall story, advising users to check the bottom of news websites to see if they are, in fact, a satirical news site. In light of so many Facebook users falling for fake news stories, including politicians, Facebook is trying out a new way to label posts to inform other users that the article is satire.