Facebook Hoax Posts Are Burying Active Alerts

active alert, Facebook, hoax posts

Full Fact pointed out the surge of hoax posts infiltrating local community groups on social media, sparking concerns about distinguishing genuine active alerts.

  • The investigation uncovered over 1,200 instances of hoax posts in the UK, spanning 115 local areas.
  • The significant impact of hoax posts overshadows genuine active alerts and appeals, potentially leading to their dismissal or overshadowing.

On August 24th, the charity Full Fact published a blog post about the proliferation of hoax posts in local community groups, their potential to mislead, and their subsequent challenge in discerning genuine warnings.

Full Fact’s investigation revealed that over 1,200 instances of such hoax posts have been identified across at least 115 local areas in the UK. The charity, which has been collaborating with Facebook since 2019 to combat misinformation, warns that this might be only the “tip of the iceberg” and could hinder the spread of every genuine active alert.

Hoax posts spread virally through various community groups, using alarming claims to catch the attention of concerned users, such as serial killers on the loose, escaped dangerous animals, and missing pets or even children. Experts warn that these posts, designed to “terrify local communities,” not only cause confusion but also overshadow genuine alerts and appeals, diminishing their credibility.

Basically, prey on and exploit the goodwill of users, prompting them to share and engage with the false content.

Once these posts gain traction, their creators frequently modify the content, often diverting them to unrelated topics such as surveys or property listings, tricking users into engaging with the edited content.

Here are some signs to look for:

  1. Disabled comments.
  2. A copied and pasted caption.
  3. A reused image.
  4. A page as the poster rather than someone’s profile.
  5. The image does not fit the geographical characteristics of the region.
  6. The language is not used in the region (silver
  7. Hashtags, red pin emoji 📍 and/or red siren emoji🚨.

The impact of these hoax posts is substantial. Genuine active alerts and appeals, such as those for missing persons and lost pets, risk being ignored or overshadowed by the deluge of false information.

Admins of Facebook groups are grappling with this issue, struggling to maintain the credibility and functionality of their communities. Some group users have even initiated campaigns to expose and counteract the hoax posts.

Full Fact has urged its partner and Facebook parent company, Meta, to take proactive measures against these hoax posts. However, despite efforts to report and counter the fraudulent content, the volume of these deceptive posts continues to rise, causing distress and confusion among users.

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