Living in these uncertain times, it seems that false news stories generated to rack up the clicks disseminate faster than ever before. Some of these fake stories even make it beyond the traditionally susceptible Great Uncle's Facebook feed and are quickly gobbled up by traffic-hungry publications who are more concerned with riding a wave of sensationalism than earnestly informing the populace. Such a story had its grips on publications across the internet today, and the salacious topic fueling the frenzy was (of course) aliens.
A video was posted by a self-described member of Anonymous — a loosely associated international "hacktivist" group — who claimed that they had exclusive evidence from NASA saying that we are on the verge of discovering alien life. The person in the Guy Fawkes mask with the digitally-altered voice goes even further, claiming that they're not just talking about microbial life, "but advanced, space-faring civilizations."
Unfortunately, the facts just do not measure up to these claims — which were taken out of context from actual hearings. Keeping in mind that NASA is certainly making significant progress in discovering life on other planets, The Washington Post decided to do some actual journalism and reach out to NASA for a quote on the fake news. “While we’re excited about the latest findings from NASA’s Kepler space observatory, there’s no pending announcement regarding Extra-Terrestrial life,” a spokesman for the agency wrote.
One of the quotes pulled for the video was said by NASA's Thomas Zurbuchen during a congressional hearing back in April (the entire hearing is publicly available). Zurbuchen did indeed state “We are on the verge of making one of the most profound, unprecedented discoveries in history,” — but he was discussing the discovery of possible habitable planets around distant suns, as well as organic chemicals being found on a moon of Saturn.
Futurism will continue to follow all leads regarding the search for life beyond Earth — but we will do so with the full backing of peer reviewed science and not by taking the word of a viral video.