UberFacts Mostly Aren’t

If you spend any time on Twitter, you probably either follow or see fairly frequent retweets from people who do follow an account called UberFacts. And if you’re like me, you’ll often see one of the interesting little factoids they send out and think to yourself boy, this sounds an awful lot like garbage. And you’d be right, at least according to 3 evaluations of the validity of 3 days worth of tweets.

On its best day, only 64% of the so-called facts could be proven to be conclusively true while it’s worst result was just 58%. This is important not only because liars suck and can be dangerous, but because apparently the people behind this account make some pretty decent money. Like half a million dollars a year decent. Sure it’s not the sort of cash a place like Fox News rakes in for peddling falsehoods and half truths, but the internet has historically had enough trouble telling hoax from reality and the last thing we need is more people compounding the problem and getting rich doing it.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m perfect, but you’d be amazed how many things people send me that I just delete because a few minutes with Google and my built-in bullshit detector are enough to make it a bad idea to run with them. You know, because they’re fake. and nobody’s paying me anything close to 500000 goddamn dollars a year to do quality control or to admit I messed up when I do get tricked. I do that sort of thing because it’s the right thing to do.

Supporting UberFacts is kind of like slipping your grandparents a few bucks every time they forward you one of those amazing but true emails with all the recipient lists still attached, and there’s not a person on the planet who likes those. If you need odd and interesting trivia on your Twitter, Follow MentalFloss. Those people know what they’re doing.

8. Most fast food side salads are dusted with propylene glycol, which can be found in antifreeze and sexual lubricants.
FALSE. The primary ingredient of the antifreeze in your car is ethylene glycol, which is toxic. The food-grade “anti-freeze” agent used in all kinds of foods is propylene glycol. The latter is generally recognized as safe by the FDA, CDC, and WHO. The people pushing this fear around antifreeze in food are, as some skeptic bloggers have deemed them, the Jenny McCarthys of food bloggers.

18. Circumcised men have a 50-75% lower chance of getting HIV.
FALSE. This statistic is tremendously misleading. Various studies over the past two decades have shown that circumcision does decrease the chances of men contracting HIV, but there are a number of different variables. As the CDC notes, “After adjustment for confounding factors in the population-based studies, the relative risk for HIV infection was 44% lower in circumcised men.”

24. Wearing headphones for just an hour will multiply the bacteria in your ear by 700 times.
FALSE. This one is an urban legend that has been making the rounds for years. Research done on the amount of microorganism transferred from the ear to headphones (not the other way around) is actually closer to 11 times. Not 700.

32. “Almost” is the longest word in the English language with all the letters in alphabetical order.
FALSE. This one isn’t even close. “Almost” is just six letters long. “Aegilops” is eight letters long (it’s a genus of flowering plants) and is considered the longest English word with letters in alphabetical order. But if that’s too Greek/sciencey-sounding to you how about the words “beefily” and “billowy,” each comprising seven letters?

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