We love sharing on social media, and it is one of the big reasons these sites exist. Around three billion people use Facebook and Instagram. These users also pass on information via WhatsApp and Messenger every day – and some of the information we share is fake!
The spread of fake news, fake profiles, and mockumentaries is a growing problem. But how does a user spot what's fake and ensure they only share what is real? How do you know if a source is a trusted one?
Spotting fake profiles
The problem of fake profiles is as old as social media and isn't one that is easy to tackle. Sometimes they are easy to spot, but the more malicious ones are clever and a lot more subtle than in the past. A few signs that a profile may be fake include:
High follower count but low engagement with anything – they have 1000 followers but only 3 or 4 likes and no comments
Super-fast engagement rate – within seconds of posting something they have thousands of likes
Very few posts – most of us post on social media either regularly or randomly, but an account with very few posts but lots of followers is often fake
Documentary versus mockumentary
A documentary is a term to describe a non-fiction movie that documents or captures reality. A mockumentary is often made to appear as if it is a documentary but is usually meant to be funny, a parody or satire. Sometimes it can even be malicious to spread fake news or disinformation. But how do you spot the difference?
It can be challenging to spot because they are often made purposefully for comedy purposes. Or for entertainment – the Blair Witch Project is a classic example that many people thought was a real case. If you aren't sure if something is real, do a Google search and see what other people are saying about it.
How to avoid sharing fake content on social media
So how can you try to ensure that what you share is real and you aren't contributing to the fake content problem? There are a few tips to help. Top of the list is to know your source – is it someone you know or have interacted with to be sure they are a real person? Is it from a source such as a trusted news outlet? It is a good idea to leave social media and search for the story or content online. Finding the source and reading what others are saying about it online can help you decipher whether it is a true story or not.
Staying a little safer online
You should not accept friend requests from people you don’t know even if you have a lot of mutual friends. It’s smart to message them before you accept, and ask them why they want to befriend you online or when or how you met.
When you come across an interesting post or article on social media you’d like to share, be sure to share it from the original source.
Report fake news as spam. The faster it is reported, the faster it will be removed.
Don't share stories just based on a headline. These are often known as clickbait to get you to share, but the story inside is very different from the headline and is often fake. If you do share something later found to be fake, don't be afraid to delete it and tell your friends – we all get caught out sometimes!