Help to Slow Down the Spread of Misinformation

Misinformation spreads across the Internet at breakneck speeds thanks to the ubiquity of social media. Take a quick tour through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and you'll surely be able to find everything from honest mistakes to deliberate lies.

Photo by anieto2k / CC BY
Most people seem to share posts with the best of intentions. Someone see something that's relevant to their interests and decides to share it with other people in their network. Within moments, thousands of other people can be reading the same information and passing it along to an even larger number of people. What if the information is wrong, though?

Unfortunately, many people fail to question the validity of the information they gather online. Instead of looking at content with a critical eye, people will blindly accept what they read as fact and pass it along to others who will eagerly absorb it with the same unquestioning attitude. This goes far beyond relatively benign old wives' tales, however. Here are some examples of popular misinformation from the Internet that have the potential to cause a fair amount of harm:
  • A false advertisement supposedly from Apple that told users that the latest version of the OS would render their devices completely waterproof. According to reports, a number of people fell for this scam and ended up damaging their iPhones. (Read more.)
  • A tip that has been circulating the Internet for years claims that entering your PIN number backwards at an ATM machine will call the police for you. This is unbelievably dangerous misinformation. Imagine if you were in danger and you decided to use this tip instead of actually calling an emergency number? (Read more.)
  • Fake or very outdated reports of missing children and pleas for help in finding them have been spreading across the Internet for many years. This unfortunately can take attention away from legitimate current reports, as well as cause unnecessary grief those families whose children have been found but are being recognized from circulated photos. (Read more.)
These are just a few of the constantly increasing pool of lies that are being shared across the Internet every day. How can you help to stop the spread? Cross-check with reliable sources. Think: Wouldn't Apple have posted about the waterproof update on their own Web site? Wouldn't banks share information about safety features with their customers? Wouldn't the AMBER alert Web site have an identical missing child report? You can also visit to look up information about the story you've heard and to find out more about whether or not it's true.


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