Identify and Avoid False Social Media Posts

So much information is available online—however, simply because something exists on the internet does not make it true.

Although there are many credible digital sources available, there are also unreliable ones. It’s important to know how to navigate digital sources so that your own eyes can discern true for false and, ultimately, help stop the spread of misinformation.

Social media in particular can be a difficult area to navigate when it comes to understanding truth from fiction. It is so easy to press share or retweet without reading past the headline, and we also might find ourselves at odds with friends and family members if they are the ones sharing the erroneous information. An incorrect post can still pick up “likes” and go without anyone realizing it contained misinformation. This can make social media interactions uncomfortable and, worse, potentially dangerous, if it leads us to make the wrong call during a crisis.

This all makes your social media feed sound like a scary place to be. But with the right tools, you can carefully navigate posts so that you and your loved ones receive the right information.

Is there a date on the post? Perhaps the first and best thing you can do when reviewing a shared social media post is check the date. It could be correct information, but the wrong time. Your loved ones don’t need to worry about a storm warning if it’s accidently been reposted a year later.

Do you consider the author a reliable source? When reviewing social media content, it’s important to consider the author. Are they an expert or trusted member of the community, or is it a name you don’t recognize? If they are an expert, chances are it’s a subject they often share updates about. However, if it’s on a subject they don’t often post or tweet about, they might be misinformed.

Another layer to consider is the source of the article or video. Does the content come from a single user or is it from a major news organization? A well-known organization will most likely provide the more credible information.

If you don’t know the author, who are they? Sometimes verifying a user takes more than checking their name and website credentials. For example, pranksters have been known to create false accounts using the names of celebrities or set up purposefully misleading accounts with names that sound like verifiable news sources.

You may want to dive deeper and read the bio—What is the location of the source? Are they local to the place or sharing news about a different area? Does it make sense they would have access to this information? You can also check who else is in their network and how old the account is. If it’s a new account with few followers, it may mean it’s fake. 

Can the information be found elsewhere? We’ve gotten used to doing two-factor authentication when it comes to our most personal and important information. When logging into our banks, emails, and other high-security digital platforms, we understand the more verification we have, the safer we are. When in doubt, adopt the same mentality when sorting through divisive or unusual news. Ultimately, double checking and seeing if the information can be found elsewhere will help us truly confirm its veracity.

 

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