In May, Roupe shared the fake-news item, which falsely claimed that the “trend of wearing pants below your butt” was started by prisoners who wanted to “signal” that they were “willing to have sex with other prisoners.”
“If it was false, and it came to my attention that it was false, then of course I would [remove it]” Roupe told me.
Roupe removed the sagging-pants fake news item after it was cited in a December BigMedia.org investigation of fake news appearing on the Facebook pages of state legislators.
Asked if she always deletes Facebook items once she finds out they’re fake or inaccurate, Roupe said, “Yeah, once I know that it’s false. I mean, sometimes you can tell when it’s false and sometimes you can’t.”
In this case, the sagging-pants falsehood had been proven bogus by Snopes about a year before Roupe posted it.
“Sometimes I’ll [post something on Facebook] to spontaneously combust conversation, not to claim that it’s news, but to get people to talk about stuff.”
While I disagree that state legislators like Roupe should spread rumors to ignite conversation, I give Roupe big credit for removing fake news from her Facebook page and thereby advancing the cause of fact-based discourse.
Roupe told me she didn’t remember the sagging-pants item specifically and that she manages her own Facebook page. So she would have been the one to remove it.
Roupe’s personal Facebook policy regarding fake news is similar to the guidelines in the Fake News Pledge that BigMedia.org is asking legislators to sign. It reads, in part, that if a legislator posts a fake news item that’s “deemed unproven or false or inaccurate by Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or by a respected news outlet, information from my Facebook page will be removed as soon as possible–or detailed reasons for not deleting it will be provided.”
Roupe did not post reasons for deleting the sagging-pants fake news item.
Roupe, who’s loss in the November election means she’ll be leaving the State Legislature this week, declined to sign The Fake News Pledge, telling me in an email that it’s “moot” due to her imminent departure. She did not respond to my request to sign the Fake News Pledge for ordinary citizens.
Fake news is defined in the pledge as “inaccurate information, packaged to look somehow like news.”
The “Public Service Announcement” that Roupe removed from her Facebook page stated:
“For all those who think it’s nice to walk around with your pants below your butt…read the following explanation: The trend was born in the United States’ jails, where prisoners who were willing to have sex with other prisoners needed to invent a signal that would go unnoticed by the guards so they wouldn’t suffer consequences. So, by partially showing their butts, they showed that they were available to be penetrated by other inmates. Click ‘share’ if you want to join the cause for a better dressed and more educated world.”
In its post debunking this fake news, Snopes wrote:
Snopes: “While sagging did gain its start in the U.S. prison system, it was not a clothes-wearing style authored by imprisoned homosexuals intent upon advertising their interest in casual flings. Sagging pants became the behind-the-bars thing thanks to ill-fitting prison-issue garb: some of those incarcerated were provided with clothing a few sizes too large. That oversizing, coupled with the lack of belts in the big house, led to a great number of jailbirds whose pants were falling off their arses. (Belts are not permitted in most correctional facilities because all too often the lifeless bodies of their inmate owners have been found hanging from them.)”
The other state lawmakers, whose Facebook pages were found to contain fake news, have yet to remove the inaccurate items.