I generally believe that someone’s Twitter or Facebook wall should be whatever they want it to be. But posts dealing in misinformation are problematic. They can lead people to make decisions they otherwise wouldn’t make (sometimes dangerous ones), divert time and resources from government agencies, and unfairly malign people and organizations.
Often these posts have been re-shared hundreds of times. Often they’re political, but sometimes they deal with science, major companies, religion, or other issues. Generally they all carry the same underlying emotions — fear, anger, or worry.
Here are a few quick examples of such posts, along with examples of how to use Google to find the truth.
Facebook Privacy Notice
This one crops up every few months. A post claiming that if you share it on your wall, it keeps Facebook from owning/using the content you post. It often invokes uniform commercial code (UCC) 1-103 1-308.
Search: “Facebook Privacy Notice”+”snopes” OR “UCC 1-103 1-308″+”snopes”
Result: It’s a hoax. When you sign up for Facebook and agree to the terms and conditions, you give Facebook the authority to use any content you post, and once you agree to that, there’s nothing you can do.
This is another one that gets a lot of play on Facebook and Twitter. It will reference a lost child, complete with their name, and often direct you to call a police station in the child’s home state if you spot the child. These hoaxes can be particularly time-consuming for the agencies listed in the hoax because they have to deal with constant calls about the “child” — diverting them from real cases that need their attention.
Search: “(child’s name)”+”missing” (add “snopes” if you want, usually it’s not necessary). If I can’t find any information about the child through that, I will also search for the agency listed in the post and see if the numbers match up. If they do, I will often give a quick call and ask if the case posted is legit.
Result: 9 times out of 10 the “missing child” either is completely fabricated or has been found. Every now and then though, the post proves to be legit (and if that’s the case I always share it).
These are too numerous to count. But they usually defame a politician or purport that a piece of legislation will have disastrous effects.
Search: “(person)”+”(action committed)”+”(Snopes or Politifact)” OR “(legislation)”+”(disastrous effect)”+”(Snopes or Politifact)” — I particularly suggest Snopes or Politifact because they tend to be unbiased. When it comes to politics, I don’t trust other sites to have the commitment to pure fact that these sites have shown themselves to have.
Result: 9 times out of 10, these are either outright lies or half-truths. It’s good to get the whole story before passing judgement.
Much like the political posts, these tend to defame a company, corporation, or CEO.
Search: “(person/organization/company)”+”(action committed)” — sometimes I will add “Snopes” too, if I’m unsatisfied with the results my original search gets.
Results: This one is usually more of a mixed bag. Oftentimes there seems to be more half-truths or truths than outright lies, but still, it’s always good to get the full story.
The Internet is full of lies — some harmless, some not. Don’t risk it and be a victim, and don’t make your friends unwitting victims either. Always look into an issue or story before you share it.