Yesterday, when I was going through my Facebook feed, I saw several people in my network post a copy of the map below. (As far as I could tell, 9-10 people in my network had shared it, I figure this from the fact that I saw two and then saw a link “8 shares” or “8 more shares” below them.) To clarify, the images I saw were posting the map without the question that I overlaid on it. I am not posting the original so as not to perpetuate what I think is likely misinformation circulating. As a point of comparison, it is very rare that that many people in my FB network post the same thing, or at least FB doesn’t seem to suggest it often. Three of the people who posted it were academics, one works in the policy realm, all work on Internet-related topics. I mention that simply to note that people of all sorts may be prone to spreading online what seems like factual information without necessarily knowing its source. (See below for more on why I don’t know who the other people were, a bit of a mystery in and of itself.)
As far as I can tell, there is no source listed on the image. My searching led to all mentions of it linking to the same image-sharing site, one that as far as I know is associated with people sharing images on Twitter. There are lots of mentions of it on Twitter. But scrolling all the way to the end doesn’t clarify (not on my list of results anyway) who may have been the person to share it on Twitter first since the first link I see actually uses a Facebook short URL. (I guess that could have been the person, but there is nothing to confirm it. There seem to be all sorts of FB links on that person’s Twitter feed that no longer exist.)
What has fascinated me about this map is the life people have given it on social media. (To the credit of mainstream media, I have not seen any mentions of it in such outlets.) People have not simply reposted the image, but have added commentary in several cases taking its substance for granted. The maps look a lot like what one can see on Fivethirtyeight.com, but Fivethirtyeight puts its logo on its maps, which you can see when looking at its images. (If you compare the maps carefully, some details are also different from what Fivethirtyeight does.) Of course, there could be other reputable sources. But this image lists no sources.
Now moving on to what I consider another mystery. After commenting on two of my friends’ posts on Facebook asking whether they knew the source for the image (not to be difficult, but because I am truly curious), I wanted to check the mentions of the other people who had posted it. I remembered seeing two more names and I could still see it when going directly to their Walls. But I could no longer find any of the shares in my feed. So something that Facebook had thought important enough to show me on the top of my feed a few minutes earlier was no longer showing up at all. I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled and nothing. Then I decided to rearrange the newsfeed chronologically (what FB calls “Most Recent”, instead of its default “Top Stories” ordering). I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled again well beyond the time when I knew one of the people in my network had posted it and still nothing. This suggests that the “Most Recent” listing of FB posts also doesn’t show all posts. The only way to track down a post for sure seems to be to know who put it up and go to their Wall. FB is constantly rearranging your feed and it turns out that if you don’t catch exactly who had posted something, you may never be able to track it down. (I realize that sounds very dramatic, but in a case like this it would have been nice to be able to do so.) In case you’re thinking that they didn’t show it to me, because they figured they already had, I guarantee you that is not it. FB shows me posts I had already seen all the time, too often if you ask me. So that can’t be the reason.
I am very good at Internet searches, but I am sure I don’t know all the tricks. If someone can track down the origins of that image, please share. Every mention I have been able to locate points back to the same pbs.twimg.com/etc URL and mentions no source.