How to “share” responsibly on Facebook

We’ve all shared something on Facebook. I’m a big fan of funny pictures while others want to promote a cause. But all too often someone falls into the trap of sharing a hoax or insisting on copy pasting those ridiculous “Facebook is going to stop selling my information if I post this status” (quick FYI, they’re not).

Internet hoaxes[2]

A Facebook friend of mine, Tracey Nixon, recently put together a sharing guide for Facebook. I loved it so much that I wanted to share it here and she agreed. When Tracey isn’t advising you on how to share responsibly on Facebook she is advising people on the law. She’s a passionate lawyer and can be found on Twitter under the handle @LoudMouthedChic. Here’s Tracey’s quick tips to make sure that what you’re sharing is fact:

1. If the meme says Morgan Freeman said it, he probably didn’t. It’s usually still safe to share, though, because most Freeman memes are simply awesome.

2. Ditto for Einstein, Lincoln, Kennedy and Munro memes.

3. Be wary of pages with an agenda. Whether it’s an ultra-liberal page, a conservative one, an animal welfare page, or a political one, they usually have a concept for you to buy into, and will prey on your emotions to do so. Prime culprit here is PETA, and some of the Praag pages in SA.

The best way to avoid being caught out with these is to regard the information as suspect first. Check it out via other sources before sharing or, at least, put a comment up saying “not verified”. That way, you won’t draw others into their web.

Great sources for verifying facts are Hoax-slayer, AfricaCheck, Snopes, and many of the NGO sites which are devoted to checking out stories of atrocities around the world – Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, World Wildlife Fund, SPCA, Lawyers for Human Rights.

Just Google and it should pull up some of the information that Facebook is disseminating and it will either verify or denounce it.

4. Not all political pages are suspect. Most of the political parties are subject to checks and balances, and can be engaged on what they say. This makes it easier to verify what they are saying. I’m talking about “political issue” pages.

5. Good news sites are usually safe. Faux News, maybe not, but the others are.

I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade. I know how easy it is to flip through FB and hit “share” when something shocks you. The problem is that that is also how easy it is to disseminate a lie, or an agenda, one which you may not actually agree with, deep down, if the truth were told.

This is the information age. It could just as easily be called the misinformation age. We have a responsibility to ourselves to check that the information we are being given is accurate, and a responsibility to others not to spread misinformation.

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