March 14, 2014 at 10:16 am

How to Avoid Social Media Hoaxes

How to Avoid Social Media Hoaxes

As first reported by the site No Security, there was an image being shared across Facebook’s expanses letting users know that as of March 20, there would be a No Religion Campaign in place.  Ramona, the person who tipped off No Security, noted the misspelling of several words including that of Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.  Whoops.

In addition to the No Religion Campaign, there had been a similar item floating around Facebook days before that was very similar, only it was the No Swearing Campaign.  Both campaigns have the same start date. Here’s what the posts looked like:

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Did you see these and share them on Facebook? You’re not alone.  It’s so easy to fall prey to internet hoaxes.  The internet is prime for scammers who already have a talent for preying on fear, and the very nature of social media allows information to spread quickly.  It’s the perfect set-up for these people.

However, scammers may be getting their comeuppance soon if Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, has anything to do with it.  To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his invention, Berners-Lee participated in a Q&A on the message board site Reddit.  He spoke at length about security measures he would like to see created specifically for the internet.

“I think that some monitoring of the net by government agencies is going to be needed to fight crime,” Berners-Lee wrote. “We need to invent a new system of checks and balances with unprecedented power to be able to investigate and hold the agencies which do it accountable to the public.”

Until security measures like this get passed, here are some tips to help you avoid internet and social media hoaxes in the future:

  1. Use Common Sense: If something seems too good to be true or just ridiculous beyond measure, use your good judgment and question it.  It never hurts to do a little research to see if anything comes up about the hoax.  If you don’t dig up anything in your research, reach out and report it.  Better to have said something than nothing.
  2. Avoid Forwarding or Sharing: If you think a post is fishy, it’s better to be on the safe side and just avoid sharing the information all together.  You’re not just saving yourself, but your friends and family who could potentially fall prey to the hoax and share it with their friends.
  3. Never Give Out Private Information: If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a zillion times.  You should never give out any information that is personal and private to anyone.  This includes credit card, bank account and phone numbers, as well as your home and email addresses.

The internet is the Wild West of our time; the rules are limited and the internet is as wide open as a western plain.  Using common sense while on social media and the internet is the only way to keep yourself safe from hoaxes now and in the future.

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