It’s easy for misinformation to spread online. But misinformation about misinformation? That’s a whole different story. We came across a viral Reddit post of a headline that said, “Rand Paul Seen on Video Telling Students ‘Misinformation Works’ and ‘Is a Great Tactic.’” While the quote went viral in 2022, the video was from 2013 — years before misinformation became the big buzzword it is today. Here’s how we fact-checked it.
Where is the information coming from?
Reddit is commonly called “the front page of the internet.” It’s like a modern-day bulletin board with articles, photos, memes, stories and plenty of opinions. And with more than 400 million active monthly members, it features an enormous amount of content.
However, with that amount of content, it’s really easy for misinformation to spread, especially because Reddit doesn’t conduct content moderation to let you know if a post is false or misleading in the way that other platforms do.
Instead, according to the “what’s a moderator” page, Reddit’s moderators are users who volunteer their time to run their own communities. That means that moderators have a lot of discretion over what can be shared on their subreddits, and some channels can be a breeding ground for misinformation.
Read beyond the headline
The Reddit post just showed a headline. That’s it. And without additional information, it wasn’t clear what kind of misinformation Paul was referring to. It’s important to remember that headlines can’t give you all the context that reading the full article can. Headlines can be sensationalized, super misleading or clickbaity to get you to click on them. Fortunately, the post did include a link to a Newsweek article (which Reddit displays in a super tiny font).
According to the article, “Senator Rand Paul said that ‘misinformation’ could be a ‘great tactic’ during a speech to a group of medical school students in 2013.” The video resurfaced on Twitter a day after Paul had a heated exchange with Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical officer to President Joe Biden, during a Senate hearing.
Newsweek reported that Paul, who was an ophthalmologist prior to entering politics, was giving a lecture to medical students at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. One of the students at the lecture asked Paul for advice on taking exams, and the senator advised using misinformation to trick competing students, saying, “I would sometimes share misinformation. And this is a great tactic. Misinformation can be very important.”
After news of this video spread, a spokesperson for the senator gave the following statement to Newsweek: “anyone who watches the video can clearly see that Dr. Paul was making a lighthearted joke addressing the very real stresses of medical school.”
Needs Context. While Sen.Paul did say this quote to a group of students, the clip is nine years old, and the post could have benefited from some additional information. Simply adding “in 2013” or “resurfaced” in the headline would have been super helpful.