"Fake News" and thinking critically on social media

If you have been active on social media in recent months, you may have noticed a surge in shareable charity posts. I certainly have. Indeed I have considered sharing some of these myself. Social media platforms provide unprecedented opportunities to raise awareness, funds and cultivate discussions around important causes. In spite of these benefits, in an era increasingly tinted with fears of misinformation and 'fake news', a greater degree of critical thinking needs to be engaged with.

A quick instagram search reveals a multitude of these accounts now exist, each one more dubiously accredited than the last. The most I was able to find for these two examples was a gofundme link. No other contact details were provided and a comprehensive accounting for how these organisations were going to be able to carry out these promises was noticeably absent. One such account even decided to put a link to www.plantatreeco.com which at the time of writing had not been set up as a domain. Another included 'DM ME FOR FREE PROMOS' in their bio, somewhat undermining their pretence at supporting the cause for tree planting in the UK. More well-intentioned accounts placed story Q and A sessions on their accounts, many admitting they hadn't really thought the account would take off and trying to work out retroactively how to follow through on their charitable commitments with their own funds and a gofundme link noticeably less successful than the reach of the original shared posts.
In the grand scheme of false claims these charitable story shares are not the end of days; very few accounts were asking for any sort of donation, merely a click of a button to spread the word. The more concerning takeaway from the success of these accounts is exactly this ease of engagement. Ultimately, if the account is fake and you share the post you haven't lost anything and maybe you even spread some awareness. The problem lies therein; genuine charitable projects and endeavours become lost- there is no need for donation if your share has achieved the same end for free. This means that even if such accounts are not trying to scam you, gain a follow and sell on the account, funds and attention are being diverted from the organisations that do have the power and experience to carry out promises of in this example, humanitarian aid and environmental conservation.
Social media is powerful but we need to be responsible in the way we utilise this good. As articulated by one article , "it is important that we stay calm, read our facts, verify the information we receive and then make an educated attempt at sharing what we have learned. This will help curb fake information and false hope from spreading."
  1. If it sounds too good to be true, take an extra five minutes to read into it some more.
  2. Look for links to contact information and legitimate websites. If you have any concerns or doubts, reach out and ask.
  3. If you remain unsure but feel passionately about the cause, find a more assured and reputable group to donate to or share on your story.
Using social media to promote information and causes in need of support is a powerful form of activism; don't let empathy and the desire to help be manipulated by dubious sources. Hold charities accountable.

I have attached some charities below that are engaged in the causes I have referenced if these are causes you have an interest in:

SUDAN
http://www.papermag.com/how-to-help-sudan-2638804259.html?rebelltitem=6#rebelltitem6 this website provides some information on the current crisis and ideas for how to show solidarity with those in need.

PLANTING TREES

Finally, if any of the information I have provided is outdated or there are better links for charitable direction with regards to the above causes, please let me know and I will update/ edit this post.



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