Tuesday 19 September 2017

Social media trolls spread fake posts about missing children

Social media sites have been under pressure to crack down on misinformation and fake news in recent months. Stock photo: Getty/NurPhoto
Social media sites have been under pressure to crack down on misinformation and fake news in recent months. Stock photo: Getty/NurPhoto

James Titcomb

Social media has been swamped with false reports of missing children and other seemingly intentional hoaxes in the wake of the suicide bomb attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Images and posts widely shared across Twitter included false photos of the scene and claims that terrorists had posted online warnings in the hours leading up to the attack.

The hoaxes, interspersed with real requests for help from family members looking for missing loved ones, highlight how easy it is for lies to spread online amid confusion and high tensions. They also show the difficulty internet giants have in addressing fake news.

Many users posted images taken from the internet, pretending that they were of lost friends and family, apparently in a bid to attract retweets. They included images of a 12-year-old girl in Australia, who was in fact safe at school, and of a young boy whose photo was used in an article about a clothing line for people with Down's Syndrome.

A disturbing photo that posters claimed was of Manchester Arena was also widely circulated after the event, appearing to show bodies on the floor in the foyer of the building. While the photo does appear to be from the arena, and possibly from the correct area, several people pointed out the colour scheme in the building and the Metrolink branding has since changed, suggesting it is an old photo. Many said it was from a training exercise staged some years ago.

Social media sites have been under pressure to crack down on misinformation and fake news in recent months. Facebook has begun flagging stories as questionable and embarking on education campaigns amid pressure from politicians and claims social media is damaging democracy.

Irish Independent

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