Just because something is posted on social media does not mean it is true. Oftentimes, it is just the opposite.
Whether it’s Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump for president, Megan Kelly being fired for endorsing Hillary Clinton or a local story getting lots of likes and shares only to learn they were inaccurate or outright fake.
Last week, the Star-Herald received a call about a social media post about a possible abduction receiving a lot of social media traffic.
After a few calls we discovered the story was not accurate.
It is not the first, nor will it be the last, call we get that is inaccurate, or even worse, fake.
Even when 64% of us say fake news is a problem, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center report, we still feast upon it and share the very thing we say is a big problem. The report also found 62% of Americans get their news through social media, the same place where the idea of truth is often questionable, but too often believed.
Yes, if you read, believe and share anything you read on social media without doing any fact checking, you are engaging, promoting and endorsing fake news.
Social media is the place most fake news can be found today. One juicy post, a couple shares and the next thing you know, people believe.
“Of course, the police haven’t done anything, they’re too busy eating doughnuts,” someone may post. And that is liked, with no rebuttal.
Soon, the story goes viral, whether true or false.
How can you protect yourself from falling into a fake post and becoming a promoter of the fake news you say you hate?
Here is how we do it at the Star-Herald:
First of all, every news story should have at least two sources. These sources must also be credible sources.
Many times we will get a call from someone, “My friend told me they were almost abducted from their workplace . . .”
The caller is not a credible source, their information is second hand.
First call is usually to law enforcement. Was a report filed? What did they find out?
If no report has been filed or the report was investigated and found to be false, the story will most often end.
If there is a story and, if possible, we will try to make contact with the reporting party; they would be a credible source, because it supposedly happened to them.
Interviewing the reporting party we will get as much detail as possible. Two important questions, which can give us a second source are: Were there any witnesses? Did you report it to law enforcement?
A witness can give support to the claims and different details. They are a second credible source.
Law enforcement statements, especially when people claim they were attacked or a law was broken, are key sources. If a call to authorities wasn’t made, but a post on social media was, the credibility of the whole story is questionable.
If the story is legit, follow up from law enforcement adds credibility.
“But they don’t really care. They’re too busy eating doughnuts.”
That is fake, they care and, if laws have been broken, they really care.
If the person who was almost abducted shares their story, the police say they got a call and are investigating, we have a story. A witness makes the story even better.
However, if the person doesn’t want to talk and/or have not reported the attempted abduction, there is no story.
The story can be about anything, an abduction, alien invasion, political scandal, etc.
On social media, the story too often goes live by someone who was told about an abduction attempt. From there the story, which at this point is not credible, is liked, shared and goes viral.
Be careful, if you don’t know whether the story is real or fake, don’t like it and, definitely, don’t share it. To do so says you believe it and are endorsing the story.
Be careful not to be a supporter of fake news.