Over the past few years, the internet has been flooded with various hoaxes that can be easily construed as true by gullible readers.
In the modern era of information overload, it is increasingly becoming difficult for us to sort out fake information from the hoaxes. Most of the internet hoaxes appearing on social media come from fake or satirical news sites. The hoax sites usually do offer a disclaimer to indicate that the stories they publish are not to be taken seriously, and hence, it is very important to check out the disclaimer notes of the specific web site to determine the authenticity of the stories.
Recently, there was a story trending on Facebook about how 9 girls in Thimphu had got pregnant during a pool party in June this year. The story had originated from ‘Is that legit’, a site that claims to publish stories purely for entertainment purpose.
I did not believe it the moment I came across it on Facebook and even commented that it was a hoax. But there were many who seemed to have believed it. I went to the site and checked out its disclaimer note. It said “All content is for entertainment value only. Any resemblance to any real person, people, business, country, solar system or entity is unintentional. All images are copyrighted to their respective owners.”
This means that the stories published on this site are only for entertainment and not to be taken seriously. Of course, the authors of such stories assume responsibility for the satirical messages underlying those stories.
Likewise, ‘World News Daily Report’ also publishes fake stories but the sad thing is that I could not find its disclaimer note claiming that the stories are not genuine. So there is a high chance that readers might get misled.
I was also a victim of this site a couple of months ago. I came across a story about how ‘200 million years old dinosaur egg got hatched in Berlin Museum’ on this site and thought it was true. So I went ahead to share it on my Facebook wall. But soon I began to doubt the authenticity of the article and browsed for further evidences. Then I figured out it was a hoax.
In Bhutan, Shob News developed and managed by Binu Creative Donkey is also a satirical site that publishes fake stories just for fun. But it offers the following disclaimer note:
“Journalism at its worst, Shob News is the most unauthentic, fabricated and full of bullshit satirical news site. The main purpose of the site is to entertain and in no ways is intended to inform people whatsoever. You should literally have a horn on your head and a tail on your butt to believe anything written here.”
The message is loud and clear: we should have horns on our head and a tail on our butt to believe his stories. The social and political satire underpinning the stories on this site are, however, the author’s responsibility.
Likewise, there are many sites such as ‘Now8News’, ‘Daily Currant’, and so on that publish seemingly true but fake news. The best way to verify the stories trending online is to first check out the disclaimer note of the site where the story has originated from and see if the site is a genuine source of information. On the other hand, you can also check out if that particular story is analysed by ‘Hoax Slayer’, a popular site that attempts to explain and kill most of the internet hoaxes appearing online.
Sometime ago, I received a message on WeChat claiming that some strange cosmic rays were passing through the Earth’s atmosphere and warned that we should not keep our mobile phones near us while sleeping on that night. I straightaway went to ‘Hoax Slayer’ and found out that it was a hoax first circulated in 2012. It contained detailed explanation why it was fake.
With a growing number of social media platforms coming up such as WeChat, Whatsapp and Facebook, many hoaxers are getting more platforms to spread numerous fake stories from time to time that might freak you if you are not careful.
The key lesson we can take from such development is that we can’t trust everything that appears online. We need to take time to analyze and verify the information from other sources before trusting it.
Otherwise, you will find so much information on the internet nowadays that it can easily fool you. For instance, there are hoaxes frequently trending on social media citing authentic sources such as BBC World News, CNN, NDTV, and so on to make their claims sound genuine. But if you really search for it on those sites, you will never find it. So always be careful and stay safe.
By Amrith Bdr Subba
The writer is a counsellor at Youth Center Division, Dept. of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Education in Thimphu. Though he is blind he manage’s well with access technology. He recently got a Masters degree in Counselling from Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia under an Endeavour scholarship and is now back.