Over 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.