The derailment of a Norfolk Southern train carrying massive amounts of vinyl chloride in East Palestine, Ohio has been a disaster, with thousands forced to evacuate their homes.
But many people are being fed terrifying false claims that the accident has released toxic chemicals into the Mississippi River and is about to cause a nationwide poisoning — and according to The Daily Beast, a certain misinformation site is partially responsible.
"The claims began circulating on Twitter earlier this week in what Caroline Orr Bueno, a behavioral scientist who studies disinformation, described as a 'coordinated campaign,'" reported Allison Quinn. "Several Twitter users shared the exact same map to push the claim that farms along the Mississippi River were under threat from dangerous chemicals released in the Ohio train derailment, despite experts reassuring that is not the case."
According to Bueno's report on Substack, the disinformation can be traced back to a site called Eden Reports.
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"The site was created on Dec. 27, 2022, and is registered with a Lithuanian-based registrar," wrote Bueno. "A reverse IP search shows that only seventeen other domains are hosted on the same server — including multiple domains that are clearly meant to mimic the URL’s of real news websites, like 'cbsnews.tk'," most of which are "blank templates" that haven't actually been set up yet. Eden Reports, she continued, uses "fake writers with AI-generated pictures" to spread the disinformation.
Preventing fake news from spreading continues to be an ongoing challenge for social media platforms and search engines. Oftentimes this process is weaponized to spread political propaganda, with some groups dressing up political advertising to look like local news sites.