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Are You Spreading Lies Online?

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 by | Filed Under: Social Networking, Using The Internet

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 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.

~ Cynthia

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9 Responses to “Are You Spreading Lies Online?”

  1. Krista says:

    Glad to see an article on this subject matter. So many people share all kinds of BS, and it’s out of control.

  2. Nancy says:

    This is why before i repost anything like someone missing or wanted I like to check on to make SURE its true before I repost it.
    I agree with you Krista, it is out of control!

    • Gina says:

      I’m like you Nancy–I ALWAYS take the time to check out email ‘forwards’ or posts on social media sites at Snopes, because 99.9% are totally FALSE, and the other few contain just a sentence or two of truth. It’s the same with every political ‘forward’ or ‘post’ as well. I’ve begged my friends to trash them (emails) or not post items if they won’t take the time to check them out first. Even though they may be about ‘public’ figures, they are still REAL people and should not be the targets of lies through any online medium.

  3. Melody says:

    I not normally do this. But my sons life was destroyed by a vindictive ex-wife. Lies do hurt people and lives.

    • Gina says:

      Melody….I only saw your post after I replied to Nancy’s. I’m sorry about your son. Along with the reply to Nancy’s comment, I also believe laws in our country need to be enacted–and upheld–regarding anyone who lies, bullies, slanders (‘libel’ in this sense as it is in written form), etc., against another human being. People have always argued, disagreed, fought, etc., and always will, but to use the internet in this fashion should be illegal–PERIOD! It disgusts me when I’ve seen people on social media sites do this to people, although, THEY actually disgust me more than anything they say about a person.

  4. Kurt A kruger says:

    On the race car driver story you really should use the word allegedly, else you are as bad as the scam artists.

  5. Patricia says:

    I don’t have a Facebook account. I don’t receive anything. I don’t send anything. Works great for me!

  6. John A. says:

    So glad to see this article! I check things out before I send them on. If I find errors I usually tell the perpetrator; and if it is serious enough, I ‘reply all.’ I sometimes feel as though I were over-reacting, so it’s good to get support!

  7. Denise says:

    Don’t forget to mention the facebook stories about someone famous who just “died”. Amazing how they spread like wildfire. I always check sites like yahoo or cnn first before I share any posts about the death of Willie Nelson, Morgan Freeman, etc etc. I have seen some fans get very worked up about these stories, thinking their favorite actor or singer just died.. Verify!

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