How misinformation spreads and it's impact
We’ve looked at what false information or misleading information might be on social media, but how does it spread?
Sharing usually starts small, and if it comes from someone we trust we are more likely to continue to share that information, maybe without even reading it fully ourselves. Sometimes the process is helped by “bots” which are fake accounts programmed to spread a story as wide as possible, along with “trolls” (people with accounts they have set up to harass or intimidate other people online whilst remaining anonymous). Stories can be picked up by “super spreaders” who are people that have a large following because they are famous and then the story becomes “viral”, which means that something has potentially been sent to millions of online social media users.
Did you see this story on social media?
Nicki Minaj tweeted that her unidentified cousin’s friend was dumped at the Alter after having the Covid vaccine as it caused a bad reaction.
Nicki Minaj has over 23 million twitter followers and this story went global with politicians and mainstream media pushing back at the singer for the tweet and the unverified source of the information.
Even England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and then Prime Minister Boris Johnson weighed in at a Downing street press conference!
Other Reasons sharing misinformation could be harmful might be
- You might be spreading propaganda for political purposes
- May cause damage to a company deliberately by a competitor.
- You could guess something was a joke but others may not realise and believe it.
- You could be sharing due to your own biased opinion
- Spreading false information can discredit scientific fact
Top tips for spotting fake news
Look at the source
Is the source a respectable news organisation, Government website etc. Have you heard of them before and know them to be credible? Check out other sources, if the story is making headlines then more than one outlet will be reporting on it.
Google the author
If you google the author – Are they a credible news reporter or maybe they are just a social media influencer expressing their personal opinion.
Is it sature.parody or is it April 1st?
Some news outlets have been set up deliberately for the purpose of satire, so google the source or it might be April 1st and someone is playing a joke.
Don't assume your friend or the person sharing has done the checking
If the content has come via a friend, don’t assume they have checked out the source always do your own checking.
Question the story
Be inquisitive and question the story. Don’t take anything on face value.
Look out for words like “terrible”, “amazing” or “shocking”. They are there to create drama to a story and make you want to click.
Are your emotions being played with, have you been sent something because you have previously clicked on similar interest or opinions? Check your filter bubble. Social media is designed to suggest stories to march your browsing habits. Try clicking on stories that don’t interest you sometimes and you might start seeing a different take on a story and widen your own mindset.
Check the date
Is the story recent or actually an old story that is back doing the rounds? We might think that a story being sent to us several times must be true, but that is not always the case and it is hard for stories to be regulated or removed once they are out there.
Is there a video or pictures with the story? Sometimes old pictures will be added to new stories that are completely unrelated. You can check pictures by using a reverse image search.
Trust the facts
Is the person an expert on the subject or just someone expressing their point of view? Everyone is entitled to their opinion but they may not be in possession of all the facts. Have they provided any facts? If not then do your own fact finding.
Too good to be true?
We may want to hear that “eating chips everyday is good for you”, but if it sounds too good to be true then it probably isn’t!