Spotting the social scammers


  • 3 min read
Social media is changing journalism. In many ways this is fantastic: normal people with a front line view of the news are able to offer their own content, enrichening the news and giving journalists and their readers a direct line to the truth.The flip side to this is that while anyone can be a “citizen journalist”,anyone can also be a con artist.

So when it comes to grainy footage and visceral images, how can social media users be sure of what they are seeing and retweeting?

The first thing to do is to check the person’s credentials. If they used twitter or facebook to share information, how long has he or she been a user? Who are his or her friends? Does the profile have that blue rosette of acceptance? Many interactions?

Meet your Dacre

Many fake accounts will spring up on twitter in the wake of a breaking news story. Paul Dacre, the universally popular editor of the Daily Mail, sprung a fake profile on twitter in the wake of his paper’scontroversial piece on Ed Miliband’s father.

Likewise Edward Snowden has enjoyed at least one tribute act too, quickly outed by the vigilant Glenn Greenwald. The list goes on.

Don’t trust an account just because it has a couple of celebs in tow:

Alastair Campbell may have had his own agenda when following this ‘Enfield boy turned Journalist & Editor’.

These accounts are often candid about being new to the platform. They won’t attempt to build a back story as they know that the breadth of public interest will ensure enough hits that the odd person will be ensnared.

Never forget that hoaxers often find themesleves very funny and will go to great lengths to reel people in. Making a fake blog is not unheard of.

If you are using a page as a source for stories, or even idle gossip, use a site like prchecker to check how highly google trusts a site.

Then there is the blindingly simple: a google search of the suspect’s name, using modifiers like ‘spam’ and ‘hoax’, can throw up some clues.

Dunk biscuits not iPhones

One advert with slick enough production values managed to persuade some iPhone users that a software update had waterproofed their handsets.

If an advert like this pops up, a good thing to do is to search by image using google. This allows you to see where else a given image has appeared online. In the above example, probably not on Apple’s website.

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