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Monday, June 18, 2012

The Myth of EPA Drones

The Environmental Protection Agency uses airplanes to watch for pollution risks. Recently, several House members wrote the agency a letter about the potential privacy implications of this practice. What started as a legitimate inquiry soon turned into an urban legend, as The Washington Post reports:
First a couple of Twitter users got it wrong. Then, at 2:51 p.m. June 1, the Web site posted a blog item with the title, “EPA Using Spy Drones to Fly Over Midwestern Farms.” It provided a link to a report on the Fox News Web site — which discussed the lawmakers’ letter but didn’t actually mention drones.
That same afternoon, the falsehood spread to television. On a Fox News Channel “ensemble opinion show” called “The Five,” Fox contributor Bob Beckel said, “They are drones, they are flying overhead.” “No, they’re not,” said fellow panelist Dana Perino, who served as White House press secretary under President George W. Bush. “They’re taking pictures.”
“No, no, no. They’re drones,” Beckel said. Over the next three days, the story appeared on blogs, was tweeted and re-tweeted. It had all the makings of a great rumor. It combined two ideas that many people already believed to be true: that domestic use of drone aircraft was soon to increase, and that President Obama has used environmentalism as a cover for government overreach.