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Beware of fake news on social media

The problem with misinformation in a digital world.

Edited: 2017-01-18 22:45

Something troubling is the obvious dubious news stories that are spreading on social media. If everyone would just stick to the facts, there would be far less disagreement in the world.

Sometimes fake news stories might simply be from a satirical website, and people will be sharing it just for fun. But then there's also the real fake news sites.

Therefor, unless there's a real authority site behind a story, you may not want to be re-sharing it. If the source has a history of spreading false information, or believing in things that can not be proven, then you may also want to avoid spreading their ideas further, and thereby also avoid unintentionally advertising their site to your friends.

Original stories rarely come from these fake sites, so check if there is a more reputable source site, and then share the original story instead of the one coming from the low quality spam site.

Fake news stories

An easy way to attract visitors is to publish something outrageous, controversial, or extremely unlikely, which is almost guaranteed to attract visitors to an article. Some sites appear to be taking advantage of this, and only seem have one purpose, which is to attract as many visitors as possible so they make money on ads. This is just an example of clickbaiting gone wrong.

Thanks to social media, such sites can be very successful at attracting visitors, often with fake stories going viral on social media multiple times before they finally die. Some never seem to die!

There appears to be a never ending flood of fresh spam sites, and often old stories will re-surface on one of these new websites. Sometimes with their own modifications / twist added to the stories, and then it might even go viral another round.

Popular subject include conspiracy theories, religion, politics, and sex. Some sites, such as has been dedicated to debunking and listing fake stories and internet rumors.

What can you do?

Stop sharing fake news stories. Always verify the reputation of the site posting a story before re-sharing via social media accounts.

Be super skeptical about alternative treatments and miracle cures, especially when they come from unrecognized sources, and sources that are questioned or criticized by actual authorities on the subject.

If your friends are posting fake stories, it can be hard to decide what to do about it. Not commenting can make you feel that you do not care about your friends, but commenting negatively could also ruin the friendship. Sometimes it might simply be best to ignore what your friends are posting entirely.