Rumors, false acusations and urban legends are nothing new. But in the age of social media, they can spread like a wildfire.
After Robin Williams’ suicide, you may have seen the post below pop up in your social media feeds.
No such video exists, but it’s not what you think of as a virus, either. This is an example of a click-bait scam. When you follow the link, you’re asked to share the video and complete a survey in order to view the video. But even after you do that, you can’t see the video, because no such video exists. Several people I know fell for this.
Another example is from a site called Empire News. This story was making the rounds after NASCAR driver Tony Stewart struck and killed a competitor who ran out onto the track in the middle of a race.
Click this link and you’ll find a totally false, but somewhat believable story saying that Stewart is not not only retiring from driving, but selling his race team. Why lie? Because it draws you to their website and boosts their web traffic, enabling them to sell advertising. Other stories on this site include Wal-Mart charging customers to check out, a 10-year-old receiving breast implants and a waitress hitting a toddler with a plate.
Now the site has this disclaimer at the bottom:
They admit that the stories aren’t true and say that they are intended as satire. But I have a hard time finding the satire. Sites like the Onion publish stories like the one below that says the President is having Colorado appraised to sell.
But that article is pretty clearly meant not to be believed. Although, I’ve seen some Onion stories shared as real news. Facebook is planning on adding a “satire” tag to stories like this to make sure they don’t get shared as facts.
Before you share a story on social media, check the source. You may ask yourself, “What’s the harm if a story is fake?”
There was a case in my town where a post accusing a man of being a child rapist was shared on Facebook. It said that the local police department was searching for him.
According to the police, they weren’t searching for this guy on rape charges. The Facebook account that originally posted the photo was taken down not long after it was posted. But the photo had already been shared 26,000 times and seen by millions of people. He believed the incident happened because of a child support dispute.
Before you share a story, make sure you check the source. People will often add something like, “As reported on CNN” to a post, but anyone can say anything. Take the time to check the source, especially before sharing a post accusing someone of a serious offense.
Sites like Snopes.com can help you spot rumors, but you can also use your common sense. If big news is happening, it’s going to be on more than one site. If police are really searching for an individual a quick Google search of their name along with the crime will probably turn up a news story on the topic.