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Check Your Facts Before You Re-Post on Social Media - "Think Before You Link"

Updated on February 3, 2014

Think Before You Link

Just 2 of the hundreds of spam warnings that come up if you google search false stories on social media sites
Just 2 of the hundreds of spam warnings that come up if you google search false stories on social media sites | Source

The Problem With Sharing a Story on Social Media Sites

Social media is a wonderful resource. It can be one of the best ways to network with our peers and community members and to share information about what is happening in our lives, our communities and our world. Sure it also comes with downsides, and pitfalls to be avoided. One such pitfall is knowing when the story you just read on someone's Facebook or Twitter or other social site is factual and true or a huge bunch of bull that has made the rounds on social media for years but just keeps popping up and re-circulating because often humans are too lazy or trusting to check facts before re-posting garbage. What is even more troubling is the idea that facebook hackers and phishing experts could even use some of these stories to intrude on your personal information and hack your Facebook and your life.

If I had a dollar for every time I have seen some stories re-posted or shared throughout social media sites - I could stop working and blog full time. Each time someone I am friends with on the media sites in question I let them know the story is spam, an untruth, possible phishing. Usually I gently post something as a comment like, "Hi there, this story is untrue - or happened 5 years ago -- just in case you may want to check it. Thanks." Sadly many friends or acquaintances will delete the comment and leave a false story or complain that I tried to help. Psychologically this can happen because they want to be part of the group and were taken in by someone else so they want to save face; or because people have trouble admitting a mistake; or even because sensationalism sells - and gets attention on their page - regardless of the truth or falsehood of the story. To put it simply, it feels good to have 89 friends share a story you found first, or to have 50 likes on something you posted. It feels good to believe we have helped friends to win something free or get part of someone's financial fortune, even if it would never happen because it is an urban legend.

In an effort to build awareness and to urge people to stop the spread of bogus stories and spam on the social media sites we all love to visit, allow me to share some of these stories and some ways we can work together using fact checking technology to "think before we link" and help these stories die a natural death.

Urban Legend - Worth a Visit Before Sharing Stories

Here is a great place that helps you "think before you link".
Here is a great place that helps you "think before you link". | Source

Some of the Most Prevalent Lies Circulating on Social Media Sites

Let's take a look at some of the "stories" being posted all over social media sites by well intentioned people who are genuinely trying to help their friends through sharing information - but unwittingly end up at worst helping spammers and at best spreading untruths that just keep circulating unnecessarily.

  • 52 retired thoroughbreds need homes going to slaughter tomorrow - free (or any variation of this story). While this did happen about 5 years ago - this is now spam. All 52 horses were rescued and are safe. You may as, "Why does it matter if we re-post, it isn't hurting anyone?" The answer is, yes it actually does hurt someone. Extremely reputable horse rescue groups like Angel Acres. Inc. and Last Chance Ranch in Pennsylvania and even the SPCA spend countless hours they do not have fielding calls and emails or inbox messages begging for help. These awesome groups have limited resources and staff, and something like this can actually stop them from rescuing real horses in need.
  • Bill Gates is Sharing his Fortune (typically a photo of Bill Gates holding a paper sign hand written with that story) like and share to get 5k: I need to just apologize for this but come on! Honestly, how could anyone believe this? I know wishful thinking is important in the world but think about it, Bill Gates just would not do this. In fact, I'd wager if he did he would be broke in no time. This hoax apparently originated long ago and has circulated endlessly on facebook and other sites. The photo was edited using simple and readily available photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Reedit or even Pixlr. Anyone could create the same effect. The frustrating thing is that every fact check site and even google could confirm how false this one is. Had anyone take just a moment to "think before they link".
  • Teen Boy Shot 6 Times By His Step-Father - Every Like will give $$ Towards His Medical Care (various wording - same story): Wow, this one just hurt me to see on about 10 facebook walls in the span of a couple days. Beware friends, this is a hoax. Thank you to both Snopes.com and Urbanlegends.com both of whom are able to discuss this one in detail. They indicate that the image is stolen from a Czech news outlet and they also point out wisely that there are zero details. If there is no info given to corroborate, or to use in researching the veracity of a story - 9 times out if 10 it's a lie. Worse still, the ones that require you to "like" the original open your facebook account to being monitored and seen by whomever started the spam posting. Let's all "think before we link".

Where You Can Check Facts & Think Before You Link

http://www.urbanlegends.com Excellent resource for looking up the top 25 scams out there on line and for searching by topic items you are thinking of re-posting before doing so.

http://www.snopes.com Super easy to use, you can search by key words. Their face page usually has the most recent wave of bogus postings listed so they are even easier to find. I check pretty much everything here. Can they be wrong? Yes, but it's rare. Remember these are people just like you and I and they are out there doing research to try to help us all. But for the most part - super accurate.

http://www.hotforsecurity.com A very profesionally done site, with excellent information. They not only look at social media - but security threats across various internet and computer interests. Definitely worth a visit!

http://www.google.com It is super easy to plug in the main points of a post you are hopeful to investigate and either get an answer or a website link with an answer. Give it a try. Excellent resource in thinking before linking.

http://www.bing.com Another wonderful search engine that can take some basic details about the story you are trying to verify and help you find out if it's true or not. Give it a try. Everyone loves Bing!

http://www.factcheck.org If you have questions about political postings that seem to lean overly hard one way or another - or seem less than plausable - check this site. Admittedly this is a more "right wing" resource - but it does help to see that somewhere between a "left leaning" article" and a "right leaning article" is the truth.

More Bogus Posts To Consider

  • iPad or iPhone giveaway - (also comes up as Xbox or PS4) We made too many and will give them away to the first 1000 people who comment and share with their friends. In no reality anywhere - ever - would a huge company like Apple or Xbox or Playstation make a decision to have a giveaway that they didn't use to their full advertising advantage. They would want to receive something for that giveaway in terms of value, like the press it could generate, because then they could deduct the cost as an advertising expense. Additionally, if one would take a second and go to the originating company's website and do a little research on line, they would see there is no such giveaway. Finally - Snopes and Urbanlegends as well as just Googling the story will prove these to be false and potentially dangerous to participate in as well. So, if it sounds waaaaay too good to be true - it probably is, especially if it requires you to spam your friends with the offer.
  • Disney Giveaways - Free Tickets etc. Unless you have found a ticket giveaway on Disney's own website - its bull. In fact this is a form of "like farming" to use a phrase that is out there. Thousands have shared this bogus offer on facebook and basically it allows access to your information by unknown parties whom you probably do not want in your business. Disney doesn't need to give away anything to sell millions of tickets, why would they do this. Consider how many people are on facebook alone - would it even make sense that they would offer such a thing? You can visit Hotforsecurity.com to read about this and other like farming scams. Please guys, "Think Before You Link"
  • General Motors to Become China Motors. Ok now this one looks a little more real, it appears to be a news site. It states a few facts that can be checked and seem to be accurate but as with any political or economic based article you need to check your facts. Publishers of these materials want you to believe their view. The fact is that GM is owned 1/3 by the US Government and while they do sell as many cars in China as they do in the US (or close to it) The company is American and it is highly unlikely that the United States would sell its 1/3 share to China. GM did expand operations into other countries but it also built massive facilities in Texas and has begun expansion domestically. This story is only as true as your own political leanings. If you check www.factcheck.org you will read the slant of the republican party and if you read the original article you will read the slant of the democratic party. Both have basis in fact however - their versions of truth offer only that which will sway you to their view. So, if you want to not irritate your friends, perhaps this is one to think about before you link.

The List Goes On. I cannot begin to list all the scams which are happening out there and being happily shared all over our facebook feeds. Instead, I invite you to go to urbanlegends.com; snopes.com; factcheck.org; hotforsecurity.com; or even our old friend google. Type in the story you are considering sharing - and see what comes up. It only takes a moment to use the technology available to us and find out if we are a part of the problem or a part of the solution. New Motto for Posting? THINK BEFORE YOU LINK.

Tell Us About It!

After Reading This Hub - What Best Describes How You Feel About Bogus Postings:

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Which Sites Have You Used to Check Facts?

So, You Like to Check Facts Too? Click the one you use MOST OFTEN.

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So, What Do You Think?

Please use the poll in the block to the right and let me know what your feelings are about this topic. Are you annoyed by all the shared posts on social media sites that simply aren't true? Are you more amused by it than annoyed? Are you one of the people who shares everything you see on line? Do you simply not care what people share? Have you ever let a friend know their recent shared story was on snopes? Would you like if social media sites took more time to remove spam stories or block them? Give your answers and let's see how one another feels about this topic.

We all like to feel that we are "connected" and "tuned in" to the world around us. We also enjoy having our friends like what we post and it can be very validating to have them share our posts, thoughts, and news. There's nothing wrong with that, it is human nature. It can also feel good to know that you're being responsible and aware when deciding what you choose to share.

I am glad you came and checked out this hub and hope it was useful. Please know, for me and many people on facebook, twitter, and other social sites - we do appreciate the great things that can be shared - we just would like folks to be more aware in posting things that could be harmful or that are spam.

Let Your Ideas Soar

Our thoughts and ideas, once shared through social media - are like the heated air within a balloon; they can fill others with hope and things to ponder - lifting others to new heights; or, they can weigh others down - pulling them toward earth,
Our thoughts and ideas, once shared through social media - are like the heated air within a balloon; they can fill others with hope and things to ponder - lifting others to new heights; or, they can weigh others down - pulling them toward earth, | Source

© 2014 Karen Quinn

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    • Xhyniie profile image

      Xhyniie 23 months ago

      It's hoax! I still remember a story about a chinese woman who had undergo plastic surgery (before he met her hubby) and her husband doesn't know about it. Then the husband divorced his wife because their children were ugly. It was a hot trending topic on facebook and even on other websites. And also there were pictures of that family (the husband,wife and their children). Some of the internet users believe that it's true and share the story on their timeline. But actually it was a hoax. It's true that they were chinese people but the pictures circulating online were used for advertisement on plastic surgery in China. In addition, the sources of the story are unknown.

      That is why I never believe on stories shared on social media sites until its proven to be a legit one.

    • Khatarina profile image

      Khatarina 2 years ago

      I can't count the number of times I've posted to correct fake stories, and, most of the time, the comments are just ignored. I hate the share/like=$1. I don't want to wake up, turn the computer on and have a grotesque picture of some baby staring right out at me. Whoever's making them has changed their tactics, too. Now they're sharing/like=amen, as if that would actually do anything, if the kid was even real. (Not religious, if you are, sorry, but the point still stands that the pictures are old/stolen/fake). And don't forget the 'hacker' posts that are going around. Not only are they fake, but by sharing them, people are ruining the good name of every person on facebook who happens to share that name.

    • youtalktoofast profile image
      Author

      Karen Quinn 3 years ago from Bucks County, Pensylvania

      Flourish your comments are just so nice - thank you. I find sometimes we do things out of habit and without thinking about the impact. Like reposting. Thank you for your thoughtfulness in providing such positive feedback.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Every user of social media needs this gentle reminder. I like that you pointed out the risk regarding personal info as well as the impacts to legitimate charities in that one circumstance. I remember the story about the dogs who worked at Ground Zero allegedly needing booties for their feet and so many more.