We fact-checked UberFacts on three separate occasions in 2014. And every time, the Twitter-based trivia robot got a failing grade. But today we’re happy to report some good news: UberFacts is more accurate these days!
Way back in March of 2014 UberFacts got a grade of just 59 per cent true. Then in June it was 62 per cent. Another random fact-check in December revealed 64 per cent of their tweets were true. How’d they do this time? Surprisingly, 80 per cent were completely true! A solid B minus!
We fact-checked every UberFacts tweet from April 5th, midnight to midnight, Pacific coast time. Out of 68 fun facts, there were 55 we could confirm as being completely true, 8 that were completely false, and 5 that had elements of truth but were misleading or otherwise wrong — what we call “true-ish.” You can see our report card below, complete with links to sources.
The only real bad news? Many of the tweets are more accurate because they’re clearly plagiarized from other sites. It’s a relatively minor sin in the grand scheme of things, but could pose a problem as the UberFacts empire grows. UberFacts has become quite a business, reportedly bringing in about $US500,000 a year from sponsored links alone.
And granted, there’s still some bullshit in the mix. We can’t totally discount the eight completely untrue facts sent out during that 24-hour stretch. But given their rapid improvement, our guess is that UberFacts must’ve hired some fact-checkers recently. Or at least people who know how to copy and paste more accurately. Whatever the case may be, it’s a modest step in the right direction.
1. The actor who played the farmer in the movie “Babe” decided to go vegan after working closely with the “extraordinary animals” in the film.
True. James Cromwell’s work on the 1994 film Babe did indeed inspire him to go vegan, but he’d already been vegetarian since 1975.
2. When threatened, ferrets will do a cute little dance to put their prey into a trance.
False. This tweet gives the impression that the dance is a defence mechanism. It’s not. Ferrets do actually dance to “hypnotize” their prey, but it’s not because they’re threatened. The ferret is the threat in this case.
3. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago.
4. Cheddar cheese was named after the city Cheddar in England.
True. The cheese dates back to the 12th century.
5. 1 in 10,000 units of blood that are transfused in the U.S. are the wrong kind of blood for the patient.
True. That figure comes from a 2009 study.
6. “Spelt” is the correct alternative to “Spelled.”
False. This tweet gives the impression that “spelled” is the incorrect spelling. But both spellings are perfectly acceptable in English outside of the United States. And, in fact, American English firmly decided on “spelled” around the turn of the 20th century.
7. An estimated 20 per cent of Tweets are explicitly threatening to women.
False. UberFacts seems to have misinterpreted the results of a 2014 study (as reported in The Atlantic and Wired UK) that looked at misogyny on Twitter. What did the study really find? That 20 per cent of tweets which contain the words “slut” or “whore” were threatening/abusive.
8. The British will spend an average of £162 on a great weekend, more than residents of any other European country.
True. This little fun fact is lifted from the Daily Mail.
9. The reason that pre-grated cheese doesn’t clump together in the pack is that they add wood pulp.
True-ish. This misleading fun fact is scraped from Reddit. Certain food bloggers with very little understanding of food science love to go on about how so much of our food has “wood pulp,” when, in fact, they’re referring to cellulose. Cellulose is an additive that, yes, can be used to make sure that pre-grated cheese doesn’t clump together and can be derived from a number of edible sources. But it’s not as simple as what so many consumers imagine — that they’re literally dumping wood into your cheese. Many food bloggers who complain about the use of cellulose also forget to mention one thing: Organic food makers use cellulose as well.
10. Hodor from the TV show “Game of Thrones” is a successful DJ in real life.
True. Kristian Nairn, the actor who plays Hodor has DJ’d all around the world.
11. Penguins are changing their personalities to prepare for climate change.
True. As a study from the American Physiological Society reports:
Birds with low corticosterone responses and proactive personalities are likely to be more successful (have greater fitness) in constant or predictable conditions, whilst birds with reactive personalities and high corticosterone responses will be more successful in changing or unpredictable conditions.
12. It would take roughly 17,500 sit ups to burn one pound of fat.
True. The caveat that this fun fact leaves out? Those sit-ups need to be performed at a rate of about 20 per minute, completing the exercise in about 14 hours and 35 minutes.
13. John Ratzenberger has voiced a character in every Pixar film.
True. Ratzenberger also has a character in the upcoming Pixar film, Inside Out, set to hit theatres this June.
14. During the Roman Era, interesting dreams were submitted to the Roman Senate for analysis and dream interpretation.
True. Though according to the book Dreams and Dreaming in the Roman Empire by Juliette Harrisson, this practice was far from common.
15. Angelina Jolie’s stunt double in the “Tomb Raider” movies was a man.
True-ish. Only one of Jolie’s stunt doubles was a man. She had many, though UberFacts makes it sound like she only had one.
16. For polar bears, a single mating session may last up to 65 minutes, with a male mating with the same female for as long as 10 days.
True. However, the data comes from a 2015 study in Polar Research that looked at just one polar bear pair.
17. In his 1992 memoir, Marky Mark, Wahlberg wrote a dedication to his penis.
True. This fun fact was plagiarized from Complex magazine.
18. Maple syrup has more calcium than milk.
True. This fact was scraped from TIL Reddit. One cup of milk has 305 mg of calcium. Once cup of maple syrup (which I wouldn’t suggest drinking like milk) has 321 mg of calcium.
19. Short female drivers that sit close to the steering wheel are the most likely to be killed by an air bag.
True. Though the sex of the driver is only relevant because women tend to be shorter than men. Short male drivers who sit close to the steering wheel are also more likely to die by air bag than their taller counterparts.
20. In Spain, the “Tooth Fairy” is a mouse known as Ratoncito Perez.
True. Companies like Colgate have even used the character in advertising in Venezuela.
21. 78% of NFL players go bankrupt or end up facing serious financial stress within two years of ending their playing careers.
True. According to the 2009 Sports Illustrated article that this fact comes from, 60 per cent of NBA players face a similar fate within five years of retirement.
22. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton claims that Netflix series ‘House of Cards’ is 99 per cent real.
True. The origin of this quote is actually a retelling from Kevin Spacey, who’s been friends with Clinton since the 1990s. He’s clearly exaggerating, but that’s how the quote was reported.
23. After Marty McFly accidentally knocks down a pine tree in the past at the site of the future Twin Pines Mall, the name changes to Lone Pine Mall.
True. The shooting location was actually the Puente Hills Mall in the city of Industry, California.
24. After filming ‘American Pie,’ Seann William Scott was a churro guy at the Los Angeles Zoo.
True. The phrasing “after filming” is a little misleading though. After the film was finally released in 1999 he did alright for himself financially.
25. One-third of girls in the developing world are married before the age of 18 — 1 in 9 are married before the age of 15.
True. This one is plagiarized from the International Center for Research on Women.
26. Fish bowls don’t provide the proper amount of oxygen and are actually terrible homes for fish.
True. The amount of oxygen in a fish tank depends upon the amount of surface area at the top that’s exposed to the air. So naturally, a fish bowl provides very little oxygen to your goldfish. There are campaigns to get fish bowls banned.
27. “Good2Go” is a smartphone application that encourages users to give consent before engaging in any sexual acts.
True. The app has been criticised in some quarters for trying to apply a technological solution to a social problem.
28. Before he was a director, James Cameron was a school bus driver.
True. He was also a truck driver and worked in a machine shop before he became a director.
29. 52% of singles do not agree that ’till death do us part’ is a thing of the past, according to a Match.com survey.
True. Sure, why not.
30. When Rihanna was trying to break out in 2006, she appeared on “All My Children,” a daytime soap opera.
True. Though “trying to break out” is really misleading. Rihanna was on “All My Children” playing herself and singing SOS, from her debut record from a year before that was already platinum. The tweet makes it sound like she was a struggling unknown singer.
31. In 1997, James Cameron saved Guillermo del Toro’s father from Mexican kidnappers by paying the $US1 million USD ransom.
True. “Now every time I see [my father], I demand for him to do something entertaining, because he was so expensive,” del Toro jokingly told NPR in 2007.
32. The highest-paid female CEO in the U.S. was born as a man.
True. Nobody is born “as a man,” but sure, we’ll give this one the benefit of the doubt since Martine Rothblatt was born male.
33. Some parrots French kiss before mating.
True. Some of these same parrots also vomit into the female’s mouth as well.
34. In the U.S., 100 pounds of chocolate are eaten every second.
True. Looks about right, as of 2009 at least.
35. The contractor who used to make the Medal of Honour once illegally sold 300 for $US75 each.
True-ish. The way UberFacts words this, they make it sound like the company only sold 300. H.L.I. Lordship Industries, the company that used to make the medals, sold thousands dating back to the 1960s. In 1996 the FBI put a stop to it, but the company could only be charged for selling 300 of them due to a 5 year statute of limitations.
36. For racing scenes in “The Fast and the Furious” (2001), the director recruited 200 real illegal street racers.
False. The director did indeed get some illegal street racers for the film, but the 200 number actually refers to the number of illegally souped up cars, not the number of drivers.
37. A 2004 study found that 70% of people would give away their computer passwords when bribed with chocolate.
True. A whopping 34 per cent didn’t even need to be bribed.
38. Will Smith turned down the role of Neo in “The Matrix.” Instead, he took the lead role in “Wild Wild West.”
True. Smith told Wired in 2007:
You know, The Matrix is a difficult concept to pitch. In the pitch, I just didn’t see it. I watched Keanu’s performance – and very rarely do I say this – but I would have messed it up. I would have absolutely messed up The Matrix. At that point I wasn’t smart enough as an actor to let the movie be. Whereas Keanu was smart enough to just let it be. Let the movie and the director tell the story, and don’t try and perform every moment.
39. While filming “Murder By Numbers,” Sandra Bullock brought a Chinese herbalist and acupuncturist to help the cast and crew cope with stress.
True. But the efficacy of acupuncture is another question altogether.
40. Up to 70% of Dobermans display OCD behaviours, while 8% of all dogs do.
True. Though this one, like so much of UberFacts, is plagiarized word-for-word from TIL Reddit.
41. French thugs used a weapon that served as a revolver, a knife, and brass knuckles.
True. Another one ripped directly from Reddit.
42. Sheryl Crow was a backup singer for Michael Jackson.
True. She was on the tour for Bad.
43. Stress during pregnancy has also been linked to offspring with autism.
True. Though as New York magazine explains, it’s not exactly run-of-the-mill stress. It’s more like trauma.
44. Beyoncé is a registered Republican.
False. Some people took her performance at the presidential inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001 as an endorsement of Republican ideals. But as a friend of the Obama White House, this seems unlikely. And I could find no source that verified this claim, just rumours that apparently started in the mid-2000s.
“I played at the [George W. Bush] inauguration because there were a lot of kids in the audience that I wanted to reach, that’s all,” Beyonce told Spin magazine in 2006. “Who knows, maybe one day I will speak of my political beliefs, but only when I know what I’m talking about. Right now, I don’t.”
Some people, like writer Milo Yiannopoulos, have taken this quote about the Bush inauguration and falsely attributed it to being about Obama’s inauguration. The quote comes from the July 2006 issue of Spin, long before Barack Obama was even a declared candidate in the 2008 election.
45. The first recipient of a silicone breast implant was a dog.
True. The dog was named Esmeralda.
46. Black Swallower fish are capable of swallowing prey up to 10 times their weight.
True. Amazingly, we still no very little about the Black Swallower, which lives at incredible depths.
47. According to a study, the number of alcoholic drinks a person consumes in a week is directly related to their number of sexual partners.
True. At least according to the author of a study that has yet to be released.
48. Comfort food is an illusion — a person’s mood will improve regardless of what food they eat, or if they eat no food.
True. According to a single study.
49. The new Tesla D’s autopilot can read speed limit signs, adjust automatically, and avert car crashes.
True. Though Musk warns that “autopilot” doesn’t mean that the driver can fall asleep just yet.
50. Most streets in Japan don’t have names.
True. The Japanese addressing system is confusing to many Westerners.
51. The Pirate Bay tried buying their own island.
False. It was actually a former British naval platform just 550 square meters in size, not a real island. And the idea didn’t get very far. So just about everything about this short sentence is misleading.
52. Human trafficking is considered the third largest source of profits for organised crime, behind only drugs and guns.
True. As of 2001, at least.
53. When invited by a lady to spend a summer’s night with her, Benjamin Franklin asked to postpone until winter when nights were longer.
True. Probably. This little fun fact is of course plagiarized from Reddit, but the link it currently has doesn’t seem to back up the assertion. But we’re going to give UberFacts the benefit of the doubt on this one. Benny Franklin had a lot of advice and strategies for choosing and keeping mistresses.
54. People in Ancient Greece and the Middle Ages believed the world was round, not flat.
True. The myth that all people into the 15th century believed the earth was flat appears to have been invented in the 19th century.
55. One frame of the ice castle in the movie “Frozen” took 30 hours to render, while Elsa magically created the entire palace in 36 seconds.
True. “We had at least 50 effects artists and lighting artists working together to create that long shot,” co-director Jennifer Lee told Animation magazine. “It took about 30 hours to render just one frame; that’s 4,000 computers rendering one frame at a time. That’s why that scene is one of my favourites. It really represents the journey all of us took on that movie.”
56. The director of the movie, “Fury” encouraged the actors to fight every morning before shooting.
True. Actor Jon Bernthal revealed as much on Jimmy Kimmel.
57. William Shatner sold his kidney stone to a website for $US25,000.
True. Shatner sold it to benefit the charity Habitat for Humanity.
58. Hillary Clinton revealed in 2014 that she hasn’t driven a car in 20 years.
False. Clinton last drove a car in 1996, which in 2014 would have been 18 years previous.
59. Due to obesity, North America has 6% of the world’s population and 34% of the world’s human biomass.
True. According to the 2012 study that these numbers come from, “Asia has 61% of the world’s population but only 13% of the world’s biomass due to obesity.”
60. According to the International Narcotics Control Board, more people in Britain have tried cocaine than anywhere else in the world.
True. In 2006, a study found that 6.8 per cent of British adults had tried cocaine.
61. Bono wears sunglasses because he has glaucoma.
True. He’s had it for nearly 20 years.
62. “The Mountain” from Game of Thrones is Europe’s Strongest Man – it wasn’t camera tricks that made him look huge.
True. Another one scraped from Reddit, of course.
63. Slipknot’s drummer was fired by singing telegram.
False. This fun fact was based on a joke article concocted by a site called Metal Sucks.
64. Japan lifted the ban on women working past 10 PM in 1999.
True. Though Japan was far from unique in this area, many of the restrictions in place for night work historically haven’t been merely gendered ideas, but general restrictions protecting workers from having to work too many late-night hours.
As just one example from a study on night employment for women in industry:
In Japan, under a legislative revision which entered into force on 1 April 1999, workers who take care of children under elementary school age, or of other family members in need of care due to injury, sickness or physical or mental disability, may not be employed between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. if they so request.
65. Every 8 minutes, a child in the United States is given the wrong medication on the part of their parents or caregivers.
True. The study looked at in-home medication errors from 2002-2012.
66. In Japan, they have lactation bars offering human breast milk — $US18 gets you a shot and $US46 gets you the nipple.
True. The Mother’s Milk Bar caters to men in their 20s and 30s.
67. According to a UK study, 72% of women prefer a man with a little excess flab, as opposed to a man with a more chiselled, fit physique.
True-ish. Though this number comes from one garbage study.
68. The “Bath Salts Zombie” that bit off a man’s face in 2012 while supposedly high on Bath Salts, but had no sign of any drugs in his system o…
True-ish. Why is that fun fact cut off? Because something’s clarly wrong at the tweet-making factory. This one yet again comes from Reddit’s TIL subreddit. The full fun fact reads, “TIL Rudy Eugene, the ‘Bath Salts Zombie’ that bit off a man’s face in 2012 while supposedly high on Bath Salts, had no sign of the drug in his system (or any drug other than marijuana) when the attack occurred.” Points deducted for being a spammy Reddit scraper.
Pictures: Tara Jacoby; pet ferret in 2012 via AP; the WALL-E premiere in 2008 via AP; Bill Clinton in 2015 via AP; Rihanna in 2006 via AP; Acupuncture in 2007 via AP; Ben Franklin in a 1762 oil painting via AP; Bono in 2014 via AP