ROY ERASMUS: Don’t re-post fake news

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About a year ago, I re-posted an article on Facebook about Donald Trump that a friend had posted. The article was about some outrageous comments and activities by Trump that completely fit his character. It made him look like an idiot, so I gleefully re-posted it. Eschia (take it easy)!

Not long after, another friend noted that the article was from a website that produces outrageous and false articles about many issues, so it was not true.

“OMG,” I thought. “Don’t tell me I had been taken in by a trickster and put it on my profile where it might have been re-posted.”

Not cool.

I quickly went to the website and sure enough, after some digging around, I found out that their articles were made up and for amusement only. Feeling very embarrassed, I removed the article from my profile and posted about what had happened. Sheesh.

Then, I pleaded to my FB friends, “If you re-posted this article please, please delete it and post that it’s not true.”

That’s what you call eating crow.

The thing is that while I was doing my master’s in business administration (MBA) we were told repeatedly not to trust all websites when looking for information. For instance, if you’re looking for medical information, go to websites of medical people or organizations.

I also found out that there are sites that pump out BS by the poop-truckload. And the articles look real because they usually have a nice catchy headline and a picture. And they often use made up quotes of people we respect. Sound familiar?

In fact, most fake news sites try to look like spinoffs of real news sites, and some are structured to make you think you are at a trusted source like ABC News, MSNBC or CNN.

This is the real “fake news” not what Donald Trump calls fake news. According to the Washington Post, Trump has made 7,645 false or misleading claims since he was elected … and he has the nerve to call an article “fake news” if it exposes his false claims or if it does not support him.

Older people re-post fake stories

In a recent study, nearly half of 2,711 Facebook users shared all their postings from the 2016 American election with university researchers. The researchers found that only one in twelve or 8.5 per cent of the people studied had re-posted fake information masquerading as news.

And guess what? They found that people over 65, and those that are very conservative, shared about seven times more false info on Facebook than younger adults, moderates and super liberals during the 2016 election. Whoa!!

And why do older people share more false information? Study co-author Joshua Tucker thinks that older people may simply lack “digital literacy.” In other words, senior citizens may not be able to tell the difference between truth from lies on social networks as easily as other people.

He is adamant that digital literacy needs to be taught in schools.

An easy way to check if an article is legitimate is by going to the source. You can usually hover your mouse over a link, click on the article, or just Google the name of the article.

Dig around the website to see if it says their articles are satirical or for entertainment only. Also, check to see if the article, or information, is carried on a legitimate news site. If it is, the article’s probably legit. Whew.

One expert says there are some easy ways to spot a BS news story on the internet. First, is if it’s world changing news from some obscure website. For instance, you might see a headline like, “Vaccinated Children Five Times More Prone to Disease Than Unvaccinated Children.”

Another warning sign is if it’s from the Daily Mail or another U.K. tabloid. And for heaven’s sake, check it out if the article is about a miracle cure for things like obesity, cancer or clean energy. Well yaaaaaa!

The expert says, “95 percent of the misinformation on the internet could be stopped in its tracks if people would just take a few seconds to look at the source of the amazing headline they just read before hitting the Facebook ‘share’ button.”

Have a great 2019, and be sure to check out articles so you don’t re-post fake news – I know I will.

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