Fast Spreading False Information on Social Media

Anna Barseghyan


During any major, especially fast-growing events, along with current verified news, there is a large spread of misleading or false news, videos and photos. At first those are spread across social media, then they are found in mass media, where, by publishing them the audience begins to trust that the information coincides with reality.

During the Take A Step, Reject Serzh protests, which are taking place in different parts of Yerevan, and different cities in the country, a huge amount of information is being generated by participants, who, with the help of their smartphones, live broadcast things which are taking place around them on social media. This”mass broadcasting” is being relied upon by not only social media users, but also journalists, who are physically unable to be at the scene of all the points of action and get information through hence the journalists.

In similar situations, frauds also emerge. Fake users who begin to spread fake and misleading information about the events their newly created, or not so recent pages. That information, starting with one social network, with a big wave spreads to the others.

How to differentiate fake news and avoid falling into the trap

  1. Treat any information critically.
    Suspect and do not immediately believe what you read, watch or hear. Try asking questions: Who posted it? Why did they post it? When was it published?

  2. Pay attention to the source of the news.
    Who is reporting the news, a journalist on the scene of the incident, a person present at the scene, or an “anonymous source,” or a representative of a state body? Ask yourself these questions from the start. This will help you to filter the majority of the fake news that you may encounter. If you have never heard of the website/person/media outlet, which is reporting that piece of news, then in all likelihood it is fake. Also, if the news is too ideal to be real, then it’s not true.

  3. Verify the news from different sources.
    If an event is newsworthy, it means that different media outlets will respond and cover it. Read different media outlets and compare facts. If you don’t come across the information you read in other news outlets, it means that the media outlets are working to verify that information, and you should wait before spreading it, because it’s possible that the entire story is not verified.

  4. Pay attention to the date published.
    When did the event take place? This is a simple question, which social media users often do not take into consideration. Before sharing anything, be it a photo, an article or a video, check the date published. If videos and articles from a year ago are circulating during the time of current events, then they are old and have nothing to do with today’s reality.  

  5. Think before you share.
    Before you spread anything think: Why are you doing it? Is the information that you want to spread really trustworthy and verified? If you aren’t sure of the answers to these questions, then it would be better not to post it on social media.
    Before you spread anything, keep in mind that you also have a great army of followers and friends, they read and follow you. And if you spread misinformation, your next posts will no longer be trustworthy and credible for your friends/followers.

  6. Do not spread articles after only having read the titles.
    The titles often do not tell the whole story, especially in situations when all the facts are not finalized or are manipulated. Many media outlets may even put misleading titles to attract visitors to their website or to spread their desired message to the public. Before sharing anything, read it entirely.

Anna Barseghyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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