Our parents used to tell us “don’t believe everything you see on TV.” Their parents told them, “don’t believe everything you read.” Has the time come to warn our kids about the dangers of believing every Facebook update they encounter? Sadly, the answer appears to be yes…and it’s not just kids who are the gullible ones, we are too!
In fact, according to a recent survey, a majority of Americans now view search engines (something Facebook aspires to be) as a more credible source of news than actual news sites. This might be considered disturbing for a number of reasons, not least of which involves the “right to forget” controversy impacting Google in Europe.
On the bright side, it seems like news aggregators such as Facebook are taking their newfound powers seriously, by adjusting their algorithms to root out news sources of questionable quality, as well as outright hoaxers.
Gawker offered up a comprehensive article outlining some of the worst offenders. These are sites that rely on click bait from controversial and often straight-up false headlines to drive surges of traffic to their sites. While Facebook can be applauded for improving the aggregation of their news content, it’s good to keep in mind this won’t solve everything.
Here are additional ways you can get tripped up by fake Facebook news:
1. Uncle Bob’s impassioned theories about the IRS/vaccines/other
We all have a friend or family member with “out there” views that we have either hidden from our news feed or keep on it just to laugh at.
Keep in mind that all 450 of your friends also have an Uncle Bob connected to them, and not everyone agrees on the definition of “crazy.”
Many people on your news feed and connected to it will think nothing of sharing and promoting opinions as fact. Before you click the share button…investigate and verify.
2. Satirical Articles
Satire can be hilarious and brilliant, but when casually scanning your Facebook feed it can be easy to get caught up by sources other than The Onion.
Many serious news sites like the New Yorker and New York Times utilize comic writers and satirists and will promote their work on Facebook. Before you share a “news item” make sure it’s real or soon you will be the butt of jokes among your Facebook friends.
More concerning than your crazy uncle or taking a satirical article seriously is falling for one of the multitude of scams that live on Facebook.
From “viral video” links that load malware on your hard drive to a new “free giveaway” that tricks you into giving up your personal information to hackers, there are many ways to get ripped on Facebook from seemingly innocuous information.
Kim Komando has a good roundup of the methods scammers use to separate users from their money.
As social media becomes an increasingly normal part of life for people of all ages, it’s good to be conscious of the fact that misinformation that used to spread by TV, radio and phone will all find a natural home on social media platforms like Facebook. Use common sense, your intuition and verify the information before you trust it.