Opinion: Social media users fail to fact check

While on social networks including Twitter and Instagram, users may have recently been noticing an influx of rumors and fake promotional offers circulating on their timelines. With social media usage becoming increasingly popular every year, knowledge of what is fact and what is not is beginning to fade away.

Everyone likes to hear about freebies and giveaways, or so it seemed recently when a rush of fake airline accounts flooded Instagram. Claiming to give free one-way tickets to the first 15,000 followers, fake accounts were created on behalf on Delta, JetBlue and American Airlines. Fact checking should be a priority for those interested in a particular issue.

With the recent presidential campaign, Tweets, YouTube videos and images all affected the public’s thoughts toward the candidates such as photos published by Time magazine of vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s workout, or the viral YouTube remix version of President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment.

Every time a political debate was aired, biased sources or social media users would spin what the candidates said in an attempt to create controversy. This led to more and more people spreading these exaggerated rumors.

Gossip and scandals can largely affect the public’s opinion regarding someone who was looked up to as a hero or an inspirational figure. Recent rumors about Lance Armstrong cost him his seven Tour de France medals, and even a month later, his name has been all over the news due to his decision to step down from the Livestrong Foundation. As a reaction to all of this, people have left negative comments on his personal accounts without understanding the full story.

Many people believe what is being fed to them only because they see it is trending or because people are posting their thoughts about it. Although the oversaturation of information floating on the web creates a difficulty for users seeking the truth, it’s a better bet to rely on verified Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts than third party sources. And, in the case of a scandal, where the particular celebrity would have bias, fact checking with verified news sources is best. With this system implemented, false statements about people, companies and events could easily be avoided.

 

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