The other day my daughter, Sarah, came home from school upset. One of her classmate’s heard that Psy, the pop singer famous for Gangnam Style, had died. We immediately Google the news and fortunately discovered that Psy is not dead, but alive and well. We also discovered that this news had been initiated by a Facebook scam designed to get people to click a link to the story which would then download a malicious virus on to their computer.
Another fake story which drew national attention recently started as a hacked AP tweet. The tweet read “Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.” Once this “news” hit, it sent the markets into a tailspin. Investors took this tweet at face-value and reacted accordingly to this upsetting news. After the tweet was released, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged by more than 140 points. Fortunately, the long-term effects of this drop were averted when the AP released a statement and tweet stating: “The AP Twitter account has been suspended after it was hacked. The tweet about an attack on the White House was false.” After this, the markets returned to their previous average.
I love social media, but it has its problems. First of all, I despise misinformation. Have you ever looked at your parents the same way after you learned the truth that Santa Claus is not fake but actually a corporate mascot for Coke? And, what about those hackers that steal your social media identity and tell your friends to check out this cool website?
As a paid professional skeptic, I live by the old saying “trust nothing that you hear, and half of what you see.” Social media is not news or media; it’s just someone saying something without the benefit of a fact-checker (or even a spellchecker in a lot of situations). Just because someone blogs does not necessarily mean they are qualified or smart (present company excluded, of course).
For some useful information about protecting yourself, check out this link by Lauren K. Ohnesorge. But don’t trust it…
Linked article by Lauren K. Ohnesorge – Triangle Business Journal.
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