How to Avoid Being Fooled by an Internet Hoax

It happens constantly – one minute, everything is quiet, and the next, the entire Internet is blowing up about something that has gone viral. Sometimes,
it’s a funny meme. Other times, it’s an emotional video, such as a soldier’s reunion with his dog after being deployed. We even have news stories go
viral on social media before being reported by actual news stations! But sometimes, the things we read and repost on the Internet aren’t true. Sometimes,
we are fooled by an Internet hoax.

You have probably heard that you should not trust everything you read on the Internet. This statement could not be truer. Sure, a lot of the best news
sources are on the Internet, and a lot of valid information does get relayed through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. There are certain
posts, however, that seem a little too good (or too bad) to be true. People tend to repost without thinking, assuming that it must be true because
other people are also posting it. But people really need to do a little research before they post, because sometimes things are not how they seem.

Just last month, a rumor was spreading around Facebook that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, would be giving away millions of dollars to Facebook
users if they simply copied and pasted his alleged post about it. You may have seen posts in your timeline like the ones below.


This post is one of many similar posts I saw in my own timeline that week. It kind of reminds me of one of those creepy chain emails that tell you that
your future relationship status/quality of life depends entirely on whether or not you forward it to 20 people. As soon as I saw it for the first time,
I knew it was untrue, based on the language alone. I also did a quick Google search to see if this was really covered on Good Morning America, and
lo and behold, it was not! That statement was completely made-up.

There are a few different ways to check and see if something you see on social media is valid.

  • Google it. This is a huge one, and probably the most obvious. If you’re unsure of how true something is, type it into Google and see if anything comes up.
  • Snopes. Snopes.com is a website dedicated to debunking myths. A lot of these Internet hoaxes are covered on Snopes before you even see them on your Facebook feed!
  • Look at the source. If someone shared a link to an article about something that seems far-fetched, you may be able to tell if it is valid by
    looking at the URL it came from. There are plenty of satirical news sites, such as The Onion, that write real-looking articles about crazy subjects,
    purely for the fun of it. Also, see if the URL is a misspelled version of a trusted source.
  • Check your newsfeed. For everyone sharing and reposting a hoax thinking it is true, there are other people who are going to be posting to let everyone know that it isn’t real. See if anyone in your feed has done their own detective work and is posting about it.

Let’s take a look at an example of a news article I saw that was shared by one of my Facebook friends a few months back.


Do you SEE this headline? Childhood = ruined!

Or so I thought…

I was about to share the article to my own page in a post strewn with crying-face and broken heart emojis, but something about the article seemed a little
off to me. Like Steve always did on the show, I definitely had to sit down in my thinking chair and think, think, think. I took a look at the URL and
realized it said MSMBC instead of the well-known news source, MSNBC. This was obviously an immediate red flag. Turns out that this site tries to make
itself look like a news site and gets people to fall for its clickbait articles, therefore bringing more traffic to the site.

Next, I did a search on Snopes and was met with this. Apparently, Steve from
Blue’s Clues is no stranger to death hoaxes and was the victim of another rumor involving a heroin overdose in the past. I was definitely relieved
to hear that my favorite childhood detective was alive and well (and drug-free)!

So, let’s recap! Don’t believe everything you see on social media, and definitely do some research BEFORE reposting that crazy story. You don’t want to
be the subject of a post like this, which is in reference to another hoax that made its way around Facebook recently.


The hoax this user is talking about was stating that in order to keep your privacy on Facebook, you had to post a status on your profile saying that you do not give Facebook permission to use your information/photos. In the words of this
user, “UGH, COME ON, PEOPLE!”

 

Written by Brittany Caselnova, Social Media Specialist at Brawn Media. Learn more about her and the rest of our team here!

 

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