If the homicides of four young men at a sprawling property in Solebury wasn’t tragic enough, prank articles and social media rumors are compounding an already complicated case by causing confusion.
Since last Monday, the search and recovery of Dean Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown Township; Thomas Meo, 21, of Plumstead Township; Jimi Taro Patrick, 19, of Newtown Township; and Mark Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg, Montgomery County has been a complicated story filled with twists and gruesome details. Aside from some misinformation that has made it to credible news outlets, the vast majority of the coverage has been factual.
However, the story outside credible news outlets was much different.
Amateur sleuths came up with theories – some of which were later confirmed – using publicly available information. But false information made its way to the public via social media, where readers were enthralled by the complicated case. Share-by-share, unconfirmed information and falsehoods spread.
While investigators did check into many tips and possible connections between one of the defendants, Cosmo DiNardo, 20, of Bensalem, and other cases, no criminal links to other cases were determined. Detectives also seemed confident Friday that no other local missing persons cases were connected to DiNardo.
An extremely false and misleading article allegedly linking the father of DiNardo to a human trafficking investigation can be confirmed as false. Several sources close to investigation have debunked the article and said they are not aware of any investigation similar to that described in the article into DiNardo’s father.
The fake article took off and even reached some police officials by Saturday night.
According to data from Facebook, the false report from BreakingNews247.com, a website where anyone can write an article to “prank your friends,” had received 25,682 likes, shares and comments by Sunday morning.
The article appears to be lent some credibility due to the fact it uses a Fox29 screen capture above the body text.
Other false news stories on the Breaking News 24/7 site include articles about a man who had sexual relations with a wild boar, an expose on a satanic cult at a closed amusement park and another about a clown who ate a live cat. All the articles appeared to be false.
Numerous requests about the validity of the report have been sent to LevittownNow.com over the past day.
“Fake news is nothing new. But bogus stories can reach more people more quickly via social media than what good old-fashioned viral emails could accomplish in years past,” a FactCheck.org article from last year states.
One way to be sure the article or information you are reading is factual, check the source and make sure you can trust them and are familiar with previous factual stories.