Has someone let you know that something you have shared on social media is fake news, or a hoax? Don’t worry, I think that every single user of even simple things like Whatsapp has at some time or another shared or forwarded something that wasn’t real.
The issue I have is that very often, we don’t take any action after someone informs us that it is fake. Our default position appears to be, “Oh I shared it just in case,” or “What if it helps someone?”
The plain truth is that fake news and hoaxes have a much longer lifespan than we think – some hoaxes make reappearances years after they have been debunked because some poor Facebook user finds it, doesn’t see the date and just starts hitting the share button. We, as users of technology, have a responsibility to become Fake News Warriors, and do our best to stop hoaxes, fake news and misinformation in its tracks. Whether it’s political, medical, racial or violent, we should be doing all we can to make the online space safer and less profitable for fakers. Not sure how fake news makes money for its creators? Take a look at this video which explains why fake news exists.
So you have shared something, and now its time to take action.
What To Do If You Have Shared Fake News
- Stop feeling guilty, and stop feeling stupid. I know that the first time someone pointed out to me that the information I had shared was a hoax, I felt like a downright moron. The truth is that those emotions are not useful or productive. Unless you shared the post with the intention of creating chaos and panic, your probably meant well. So accept that you missed the trick and accept responsibility.
- Thank the person that pointed it out. I have to tell you, sometimes it takes courage to point out to someone that something they have shared (and often commented passionately about) is not real. I have had people tell me they don’t care – one person on a Facebook Group even got quite abusive. So don’t be a jerk, acknowledge that the person has taken time out of their day to try and clean up the Internet, and that you appreciate the fact that they spoke out.
- Delete the post. Immediately. Don’t comment on it to say it’s fake – the next person who sees it on your wall or reads it on the chat won’t necessarily read the comments. They will just see the juicy story and share away, giving the hoax a longer lifespan. Just delete it. That’s all. If you want to put something up to say you deleted the post because it was fake, then go ahead!
- Become more critical of what you share – anything that is going to make you panic, seems too good to be true or just downright shocking should be checked first. Try Google the story and see if any credible news sources are reporting on the same thing. Be aware that a lot of fake news sites have been set up to look like real news sites, so make sure the story is on larger sites as well – journalists are always on top of good stories, so if it really is that shocking, it will have some real estate on the “proper” news sites too. You can also check Hoax Slayer and Snopes, two sites dedicated to bringing down fake news and hoaxes of all types.
Please take action when it comes to hoaxes and fake news – every person that refuses to let these stories go viral is an important brick in the the wall of the prison we need to build to contain this nefarious behavior. Because honestly, who has time for fake news?