Fake News and hoaxes are a downside to having a computer, phone or laptop. With your life connected to the internet 24/7, it’s inevitable that you’ll come across some ugly untruth quite quickly.
A few months ago there was a hoax called the Momo Challenge, you might have heard of it or even been sent the image (take a look on this page if you need a reminder)
These hoaxes spread like wildfire and rely on individuals sharing content without checking its veracity first. As it happened, the Momo Challenge was nothing more than a hoax despite being pushed as a real thing by social media and even the mainstream news channels.
Hoaxes often use technical sounding language to abuse (or amuse) people, for example, “…if the program is not stopped, your computer’s processor will be placed in an nth-complexity infinite binary loop which can severely damage the processor…”. Sound frightening? Even if this doesn’t worry you, to many people it will and they will take it seriously.
What can I do?
With a simple search on Google, you find that there is no such thing as an nth-complexity infinite binary loop and that processors are designed to run loops for weeks at a time without damage. Make sure you check any terminology you come across don’t be fooled by the complex words that are sometimes used.
There are many ways to communicate hoaxes, and email is one of them. However, email is always used to deliver unwanted material which is at best, annoying and at worst, malicious – causing considerable harm to your computer and yourself.
Most of the emails you receive every day is junk mail but a very profitable way for spammers and pushers of fake news to get information to you. Advertising, dating, gambling, get rich quick and work from home schemes, hoax virus warnings, hoax charity appeals – the list is endless. We are bombarded by information all the time.
Even the beautiful YouTube service has adverts and these could, theoretically, push misinformation to viewers.
The ultimate hoax and fake news checker
Snopes.com was recommended to me, and in my opinion, I think it is great. If I ever get a weird message this would be the first place to go to to check facts.
Just be aware that snopes.com is an American website and, as such, has a lot of content not always relevant to British readers.
The alternative, although much more focused on politics, is the BBC’s reality check service. With so much at stake regarding Brexit (at the time of writing, this was still to happen) there is a lot of (mis)information doing the social-media-rounds and it’s always worth stopping to check what you have read. The BBC reality check service pulls the facts out from the myths.