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Don't Believe Everything You See On Facebook

Sharing Is Scaring

National Report, America's so-called #1 independent news source, recently issued a story about a family of five that has been quarantined in Purdon, Texas after they were diagnosed with Ebola. The story went viral and was quickly shared by thousands of terrified Facebook users.

As it turns out, however, the story was nothing more than yet another elaborate hoax.

Fake news sites such as the Onion are very present online, which feature news stories so extreme that no one would actually believe them. However, there is another breed of satirical news websites, that create stories that are so close to reality that people actually believe them. National Report were also the people that wrote an article about Bansky getting arrested and having his identity finally revealed. This news story was not that outrageous - you weren't able to tell whether it was real or not - and it was shared as if it was real.

The story was quickly debunked, but not before it had spread like wildfire across Facebook. These fake news sites take to Facebook because of how easy it is to pass a fake story as real. Most people hear about the news online, when a friend shares a story, or with the new 'trending topics' feature. This means that when you see a hoax story on Facebook, there is nothing to differentiate it from a 'real' story posted by a more reliable news site.

Without actually clicking on the link and checking out the website there is nothing stopping you from believing what is said. Some satirical news websites also bury the disclaimer that what they are writing is apparent satire, meaning at first glance it is almost impossible to tell if it is real or not. Furthermore, if something is shared or talked about enough it will appear on Facebook's trending stories - false or otherwise
Nowadays, any big news story will spread very quickly. Thanks to the internet and social media, news is immediate. When something happens, people know about it as soon as they check their phones. Before, people would have to wait till they bought a paper, or watched the news on television, which left news agencies enough time to process the information before sharing it.

Today, to stay relevant and popular, news websites need to have stories out very quickly, meaning that fake news stories have the potential to blow up even more. In the name of publishing a story before it dies out, actual news websites may write about hoax stories without properly fact checking the information that is out there.

In the case of the fake Ebola story, National Report used the fear and lack of information surrounding the disease to get a few more clicks and a bit more ad revenue. This just shows that we have to be increasingly weary of the things we see on Facebook. Even if a story has been shared by trustworthy friends it is not necessarily true.

Always check trusted websites like Snopes before you share.


Laura is a recent graduate from University of East Anglia in Film and Television Studies, currently interning as a content writer but hoping to one day live off her writing. Follow her @LauraAtSMF.

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Don't Believe Everything You See On Facebook Reviewed by Laura Veit on Monday, November 03, 2014 Rating: 5
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