February 3, 2020
Carter Zupancich | MediaWise Teen Fact-Checker

MediaWise Rating: LEGIT

You’ve likely heard of the popular video game, Fortnite. But how much do you know about the man who created the game? I recently came across this Instagram post claiming that Tim Sweeney, the CEO and Founder of Epic Games (the company responsible for Fortnite) bought thousands of acres of forest to protect wildlife. The post was shared in December from the Instagram page @factsoline. Is this legit or another “fact account” spreading misinformation? Let’s dig deeper and find some reliable sources who could verify or debunk this information. 

Who’s behind this information?

The post came from @factsoline, a page with a decent following garnering tens of thousands of engagements per post. Within the description of the Sweeney post, no source material or additional information is available. Sure, this account has over 60,000 followers, but the account is not verified, nor do they link to any of their original sources. We definitely should look elsewhere for verification before we believe what we see online. 

See what other sources are saying

After opening a new tab, and using some keywords to begin my search, I found various articles confirming that Sweeney has in fact purchased thousands of acres of land. According to TheGamer, a gaming news website, as of 2016, Sweeney owns over 40,000 acres of forest land in North Carolina. For the past decade, Sweeney has spent millions buying forests in an effort to preserve land in his home state. According to MNN (Mother Nature Network), Sweeney hopes to continue his environmental activism as he not just buys, but cares for these areas; eradicating invasive species and taking care of rare native plants and animals. One note about the two sites discussed above, I did some digging to make sure they were good sources for this information. MNN has a staff that includes journalists who have worked at USA Today, the Toronto Star and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As for TheGamer, I scrolled down to the bottom of its homepage and found an ethics policy, a corrections policy and a fact-checking policy.

Dated news

When reading news on social media, it’s often hard to identify the exact time period when stories were published or took place, especially on fact pages. Surprisingly, MediaWise already reported on this topic back in March 2019, just going to show how dated news can make its way back into your feed. Fact pages like these simply revive old stories to produce more content, even though Sweeney’s actions have been taking place for over a decade.

Our rating

Although the claim was posted by what seemed to be a sketchy Instagram account, by using the skill of laterally reading, we can confirm that this is LEGIT but outdated. By using simple and easy search tools, I was able to find more information that both verified the original post and gave good context to the rest of the story.

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Alex Mahadevan is program manager of MediaWise at the Poynter Institute. He has taught digital media literacy to thousands of middle and high schoolers, and…
Alex Mahadevan

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