Internet hoaxes have the ability to blow up social media and push any type of content someone wants the public to believe. There are many reasons someone would want to spread false information that ends up becoming viral. In some cases, the creator might want to draw attention to something people are uninformed about. The message of the Instagram hoax, while proven false by Instagram, drew attention to the fact that most people don’t actually know Instagram’s policies. People are quick to post anything they’d like on social media but immediately are taken aback once they realize that their content is released onto the web and will never entirely be private again.
Other more superficial reasons could be to gain that 15 seconds of internet fame or even create content for humor or out of boredom. While some of these hoaxes are overall harmless because the consequence from anyone who falls for an internet hack is usually a laugh afterwards, there are some situations where these hoaxes can be extremely harmful.
In May, the Indonesian government limited internet access after protests contesting the presidential election results led to riots on the streets of Jakarta. Their explanation: to prevent the spread of hoaxes. Is the government justified in the #internetshutdown in Papua?
— The Stream (@AJStream) September 5, 2019
The Indonesian government restricting internet access is a key example of how influential these hoaxes can be. Shutting down the internet to prevent hoaxes gives power to the original creators. Hoaxes can also be harmful when they report false deaths.
A Pineo PSA: the celebrity death hoax is still alive and well. To protect yourself do the following.
Go to Google and type in the name of the celebrity who has supposedly died. If the person really did die you… https://t.co/kBSh9UyWR9
— Chris Pineo (@ChrisPineo1) September 5, 2019
The fact that people are making step by step guides to prevent falling for hoaxes is somewhat alarming. Being informed online that someone has died that really is alive and well can negatively affect masses of people. Although it is hard not to fall for the hoaxes, social media users have to be aware of where they’re getting their information from.