How many times have you read a feel good story or viewed epic videos and pictures on Facebook or Twitter that put a lump in your throat, brought a tear to your eye, twanged your revenge gene, or made you say “Holy Crap!”, only to find out later you were duped? Oh c’mon…sure you have. I’ve had to eat my share of shares when I later found out my share wasn’t true. A couple that made me feel stupid include the fake one-winged race plane landing, and the “Diane in 7A” Thanksgiving story.
But, some fables have public safety implications. One of the most persistent continuing to pop up on my Facebook timeline is “Dial 112 for emergency”. Another is a blatant and sophisticated video attack on the drug Gardesil, a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The video alleges dozens of young women have died from the drug’s side effects. I wonder how many parents and young woman have decided against the protection Gardesil affords because of the malicious and deliberate act of total losers?
Websites like Snopes.com and Truthorfiction.com are useful in helping figure out if an incredulous post is a hoax. The problem with this approach is it takes time to research the facts and post an article. By then, the rumor has gone around the globe fourteen times. Wouldn’t it be great to have a real-time bull($$t meter at your fingertips before you RT? Well, help may be on the way.
The University of Sheffield recently announced a three year $5.8 million project to create an internet rumor algorithm designed to gauge the legitimacy of trending social media information. The algorithm would quickly lump information sources by legitimacy, history, corroborating sources, and dissemination pathways, and display it on a dashboard. I’m guessing NPR and CNN will be first in line to buy it. Wait, maybe it won’t help them in fast breaking news stories. The pressure to be first is too great. But, it may help the rest of us in deciding if what they are sharing is legit. Historically trusted iconic news sources are no longer so trustworthy. Don’t believe me? Just ask Jimmy Kimmel.