The good news is that many individuals have been able to develop the life skills necessary to immediately spot any such hoaxes. They all contain elements that make them easy to recognize, such as references to the story being mentioned in the news without providing a link to a source, references to legal statutes that a 10-second Google search will show either don’t exist or are completely irrelevant and a laughable claim that pasting some legal text into a status update magically secures legal rights.
Viral hoaxes have been spreading even before Facebook took over the lead as the most popular social media website. Anyone who was a MySpace user can remember various types of hoaxes being shared by members. The one that gained the most popularity claimed that MySpace would charge its members a fee to access their website.
Even legitimate media websites have helped hoaxes spread by publishing articles based on source material of dubious origin. A famous recent example of this involves a story about allegations that Julian Assange had inappropriate conversations with an 8-year-old girl in the Bahamas. Even though it involved a serious claim against a known public figure, very little fact checking was done before the story was posted, causing a hoax to start spreading. It was only some days later that the original article was deleted as the evidence was found to be fabricated.
In addition to deliberate hoaxes, content from obvious satire websites being taken seriously is another reason why many are starting to worry about whether the collective drop in brain power will cause a crisis for humanity.
An image from a satirical news article with a picture of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and a quote saying he will give $1,000 to every Facebook user if they stop sharing hoaxes that make them look like “gullible idiots” began going around on the social network. As one might guess, some began making inquiries whether it was actually going to happen.
While no reliable way to stop Facebook hoaxes has yet been found, there is one idea worth trying. A hoax message can be circulated in which users who shared previous fake messages about Facebook privacy settings are instructed to stop all online sharing and delete every social media account they use, with the warning that they will be microchipped by Zuckerberg’s soldiers for being a menace to society if they don’t comply.