Many hoaxes online are simply pranks – usually not much material harm is done. There is also a degree of comedy involved, especially when celebrities and politicians become victims.
When a hoax claiming that Facebook would be changing its terms of service went viral, high profile names like Usher, Julia Roberts and Rick Perry became involved in sharing the false information, much to the delight of some users online.
— ROFL palace (@ROFLpalace) August 31, 2019
However, there is a potentially more sinister implication to consider. The hoax spread like wildfire, helped along by people that wield influential power online. The allegations of this hoax were serious; the idea that Facebook and Instagram would now have the power to make all user’s private photos and messages public likely frightened people.
#COM101 the recent instagram hoax (your instagram privacy & dms being breached) and the fact many celebrities like Julia Roberts and Tom Holland fell for it by reposting a picture/statement so their instagram would be protected honestly makes me mad. when will fake news END?
— maria irlyani (@MariaIrlyani) September 1, 2019
Users on digital platforms need to be vigilant and question what they are seeing on their screens, and this is especially true of celebrities and officials. Lets look at Rick Perry, for instance; he is the Secretary of Energy of the United States of America. He helped to spread the false information contained in the Instagram hoax to his 95 thousand followers. Politics aside, if something is shared by a cabinet member, the majority of people are likely to believe the information at face value.
There are far more intricate “hoaxes” on the horizon; deepfake videos are set to cause a disaster in the world of information as we head towards the 2020 Presidential election. Facebook is spending $10 million in an effort to combat the doctored videos, which make it incredibly difficult for the naked eye to discern whether or not the content is real.
A hoax should not be treated as just a joke – instead, the internet must realize it’s far more than that. It’s a warning.