Tag Archives: Likes

Facebook “like inflation” exaggerates the scope of Internet hoaxes

Don't Trust This NumberOver 70 thousand people shared a story about a totally fake Sarah Palin quote! Over 5 million people shared a hoax story that Macaulay Culkin had died!  It gets depressing hearing how many people get fooled by these hoaxes, doesn’t it?

The problem is, the numbers in those reports are wrong! Often, wildly wrong. They’re exaggerations caused by the confusing way that Facebook reports engagement.

Now, the underlying problem is real – social media hoaxes and rumors are bigger than ever. As a result debunking these things has become a popular pastime, well beyond the circle of organized skepticism.

Even the Washington Post runs a regular feature on Friday called What was fake on the internet this week. The science fiction site IO9 regularly debunks fake images that are making the rounds. And of course there are the old standards such as Snopes and Museum of Hoaxes, still in the business of debunking this stuff.

Read on to see how many of these well-meaning debunkers are being misled by Facebook into over-reporting the problem.

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Lawsuit reminds us that Facebook is a double edged sword for skeptics

Facebook IconI’ve written many times here about how skeptics need to take care not to inadvertently promote the online wares of those who we criticize. I’ve long recommended that skeptic bloggers and webmasters always use the NOFOLLOW attribute on links to web sites containing such material. If you don’t do this, you are boosting them in Google and thus helping their cause.

As social media has become ever more important, I’ve additionally advised to take care in linking directly to certain web sites on Twitter and Facebook. This is because even though the links on the web interface to those services are marked NOFOLLOW as an anti-spam measure, the importance of social media in marketing means those links are measured in other ways.

A lawsuit filed in the last two weeks is a vivid reminder of one of the less obvious examples of this involving Facebook specifically. I’ve mentioned this quirk of Facebook before, but only in a comment to a previous post, so I think it’s worth revisiting here.

You may be surprised to learn there is a very simple thing you may have done yourself on Facebook that plays right into the bad guys’ hands. And now Facebook is being sued over it.

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