Of Facebook Hoaxes And Their Implications
By Lionell Go Macahilig - on 15 Peb 2012, 10:35am

For quite some time, social networking sites like Facebook have been treated by many as a valuable source of information. Compared to official news channels, information through Facebook is served in a shorter yet more straightforward fashion. These days, many news channels look at Facebook as an effective tool in propagating content and retrieving timely feedback from their audience.

Although information is randomly served on Facebook, people have the power to select which ones are relevant for them. People can be easily attracted to posts with a huge following and those that are shared by friends. In addition, photos that are used on some of these posts are usually graphic and sensational in nature. They target at one of the most fragile aspects of human behaviour which is emotion. What’s alarming is that people are more likely to believe what they see instantly without investigating its veracity beforehand.

Does Facebook really pay three cents per share to help this infant?

Over the past few months, a number of posts have intrigued me, all of which went to my feeds on Facebook by means of referral from friends. The most recurrent among these involved an image of an infant who, according to the caption, is in need of immediate medical attention. Moreover, what’s more amusing, the caption says that every time the photo is shared, Facebook is willing to pay a certain amount for the hospitalization of the infant.

Google's image search in action.

Out of curiosity, I downloaded the photo and dragged it onto Google’s image search engine to find out its source. Surprisingly, based on the image results, it turned out that the photo came from Salt Lake Community College and has been used as a reference photo in various blogs and websites since then. Without a doubt, the caption of the photo on Facebook is questionable, and if the photo's caption is accurate, it should be showing the person in his/her early childhood stage.

Christians burnt alive by Sunni Muslims according to a certain Jillian Becker.

Sometime last month, another post on Facebook that captured my attention showed a horrifying picture of charred bodies. The caption says that the victims were Christians who were martyred by Muslims somewhere in Africa. Searching again the real source of the image, the bodies were actually casualties of a fuel tanker explosion in Congo. Another example of a post which is seemingly intended to intensify hatred among people with different religious beliefs targets at the age-long dispute between Israelis and Palestinians. The post in question presents an image of a Palestinian girl who was pinned down by an Israeli soldier. The latter pointed his gun at the girl in front of her mother. However, with the use of Google’s image search engine, the full version of the photo, without the crop, appeared and revealed that it was a staged act.

The viral photo...

Whatever the purpose of the perpetrators behind these posts, the situation is both alarming and annoying. Social networking and the Internet are being used as an instrument to disseminate wrong information. In addition, considering that many of these hoaxes have become viral, the offence is clearly done on a large scale manner.

While the tangible negative implications of these erroneous posts are difficult to assess at this point, comments below them reveal that they have at least an impact on Facebook users’ psyche. People are being conditioned to express compassion but in a wrong way. People cultivate hatred against other races and religious beliefs as well. These things happened simply because people were easily convinced to believe these posts without knowing the real story behind them.

As netizens of the global village that is the Internet, we should be responsible for choosing trustworthy online content. We should not allow ourselves to be easily carried away by emotions and jump to conclusions. If in doubt and the content involves sensitive issues, do a little research and verify its reliability before sharing it with others via social networking sites. Remember that every action done on the Internet might result in reactions that could be adverse and irreversible.

Lionell Go Macahilig

Lionell Go Macahilig / Group Editor

Building on the learnings that he earned from the academe and his almost three-year professional experience in the outsourcing industry, Lionell joined HardwareZone Philippines in 2007. In his free time, he runs his PC shop and reads various articles online. He also likes cats and jogging.