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Snopes fact-checks itself after linking Elon Musk’s Starlink to Titanic sub incident

Popular fact-checking website Snopes ended up fact-checking itself several times following the publication of a post that claimed that a missing submersible craft used to explore the wreck of the Titanic was using Starlink to communicate. Prior to its edits, Snopes’ initial posts received corrections from Twitter’s users through the platform’s Community Notes feature. 

The search is currently underway for OceanGate’s Titan submersible, which brings paying customers to the wreckage site of the Titanic. Communication with the craft was lost hours into its latest trip, and a frantic search for the vessel is underway. Amidst these efforts, Musk critics took the opportunity to highlight the fact that the company behind the submersible, OceanGate Expeditions, uses Starlink satellite internet. This was a fact confirmed by Starlink itself through the service’s official Twitter account. 

But while the link between Starlink and the missing craft is attractive fodder for the anti-Musk narrative, the fact remains that the satellite internet system is used by OceanGate on its surface vessel, not the submersible itself. This is because Starlink’s Wi-Fi signals simply do not work underwater. Communications to and from the submersible are done through an “acoustic link” with OceanGate’s surface vessel. 

It is this context that seemed to have eluded Snopes in its initial post. In a post titled, “Was the Missing Titanic Submersible Using Satellites from Elon Musk’s Company?” the fact-checking website rated the claim as “True.” Amidst a firestorm of criticism and corrections on Twitter, Snopes proceeded to edit its post, changing the claim’s rating to “Unproven.” An “Unproven” rating was not good enough for social media users, however, considering that widely available knowledge would indicate that Starlink could not be used by a submersible craft underwater at all. 

Snopes ended up fact-checking itself once more, this time branding the claim as “False.” The title of the post was also edited to “Was the Missing Titanic Submersible Relying on Satellites from Elon Musk’s SpaceX to Communicate?”

Elon Musk himself has responded to the progression of Snopes’ post on Starlink’s alleged link to the OceanGate submersible’s disappearance. In a response on Twitter, Musk criticized the publication, noting that it “can’t even run a good psy op.” Snopes’ updates to its post did little to curb the narrative that Starlink may be linked to the submersible’s disappearance, however, as posts from a number of popular social media accounts still alleged the connection. 

“It must be stated that at this point there is no direct indication that Starlink failed or was the cause of this terrifying and possibly tragic incident. That said, given Musk’s long history of screwups and reckless dishonesty, an investigation should be launched,” a popular Twitter account called Occupy Democrats wrote in a post, which is still online as of writing, and has since been corrected by the platform’s Community Notes feature as well. 

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