The Truth of Viral Posts

The longer time has gone on, the more involved we are with technology and in extension, social media. Sharing, snapping and retweeting, or whatever other platform it is, the media is helpful in making information public. However, it means that it does the same for promoting fake news. For each viral video of a kitten throwing up its paws, there is a viral video that claims the local grocery store has HIV-infected water bottles.

Many false posts are targeted toward stores and even specific brands. In early 2018, a post was made claiming that a Cadbury employee contaminated the chocolate with his HIV-positive blood. An image of the supposed saboteur of the candy was with the caption. With nothing more than a image search, it’s proven that the face is not of any Cadbury employee, but a Nigerian bomber from 2014. All it could take to debunk that post is a reverse image search. As hard as it is to fact check, real research will take you even deeper, with studies made into how long HIV survives outside of the body. This same accusation has been made toward canned food from Thailand, street vendors’ pineapple, and Pepsi. A similar post that went viral said that water bottles were being poisoned from injections that were made by poking a needle through the plastic lid. It falsely stated that in “the Richmond area”, without more for the location specified, several people had died from poisoned water bottles. A video posted by a Bennington, VA resident featuring punctured bottles gained 5.7 million views and over 54 thousand shares on Facebook. The post went beyond the internet, and police investigated to find that the two who drank from the bottles in the video had no ill symptoms, let alone died. As hard as it must be to fact check, there are entire websites dedicated to researching posts like these. The time that it takes to like and share is the same as it is to Google the post in your newsfeed.

The sources of these posts have reasons besides giving misinformation to thousands: profit. From the “10 Images that Will Make you Cringe” to “FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide” – the latter of these is a real fake article. The reason these websites are often so laggy and such eyesores is advertising. These so-called authors profit in more than shares and likes. They sell ad space, and Google and Facebook’s automatically generated ads don’t help anyone but them, as it makes them more money with each click to their hoax. There are other means for these writers to make money.

On Youtube, videos can be monetized by giving companies advertising space. Youtube does have regulations on what can and can’t be monetized so that advertisers aren’t on inappropriate content, but these liars have many ways to make money on social media. The uploaders are paid by the views on the video. Facebook also implemented its own revenue on videos earlier this year, and that means more money to the posters of false information. It’s true that money isn’t always behind the layers of advertisements on the link you clicked. The poster could want nothing more than a share or follower, but even as the rewards vary, the fact that this misinformation is being shared does not.

It’s true that social media isn’t necessarily evil, but people can make it so, and can even make money from it. These posts and articles can be fact-checked, even more so with those that are investigated by police and other officials, like the video of the Bennington water bottles. The fight against fake news begins not only with Google and Facebook, but also with not clicking on an article, or on your search bar for proof that it’s real instead.