A while back, a well-known Italian influencer with nearly 30 million followers, Chiara Ferragni, shared a post based on false information about what an eight-week-old fetus looked like.
The image showed a shapeless blob of dust. The purpose—reiterated by the caption—was to claim that there was no human being in the womb at that stage of gestation—no little head, no little hand, no little foot—simply dust.
Doctors and biologists intervened in the comment section, explaining that it was fake news and that the image wasn’t actually of an eight-week-old fetus. Some were in favor of Italy’s Law 194, which permits abortion at that stage of pregnancy, but they said it was wrong to share false information.
A little while later, the managers of the original post took down the image and the content linked to it because it was, indeed, blatantly erroneous.
“All’s well that ends well?” While it’s great that the post was taken down from the original site, how can we not question how many people saw this fake news on the celebrity’s profile, which has nearly 30 million followers?
And how many of those people found out it was fake? We can guess very few did, since she didn’t go back and correct herself or apologize for the bomb she dropped.
The question begs to be asked: how can we stop a hoax when celebrities who have millions of followers share it?
The first step is to get people who are on social media platforms to realize that they can be fooled.
Here are some tips to protect us from falling victim to fake news:
- Be aware that the problem exists. Search engines try to combat these sites, but social media doesn’t really, and this is where fake news runs rampant. The internet allows for even the smallest news outlets to spread their news, which thanks to social media, has a much broader reach. Let’s open our eyes to this phenomenon. Perhaps those who share hoaxes do so in good faith, but all that glitters is not gold, and all that is shared by the people we follow isn’t true. They can make mistakes.
- The world isn’t made up of solely good people, and the same goes for the internet. We need to know that on social media, as in life, we can find people who want to trick us. Fake news is counterfeit news—from a manipulative distortion of facts to total misinformation. All we need to do is fact-check, but thinking to fact-check first requires an awareness that we cannot take everything we read to be true.
- The key word is verification: Let’s verify that what we are reading or hearing comes from a trusted source. Let’s verify that the news we read on social media such as Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook comes from reliable sources.
- Read the content, not just the headline. Look for sources that have another point of view of the same subject.
- Let’s warn those who share disinformation that they are spreading a “hoax” when we notice it.
- Finally, using some common sense, let’s create our own list of trusted sources.