Marketing Personal Writing

How to spot “fake news” on social media

Although the topic isn’t new, the recent election has recharged the discussion on “fake news” in social media.

What is fake news?

It’s information or data appearing on various social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter or other social sites – that readers often accept as real. Sadly, it isn’t necessarily true or factual.

What makes this “news” incredibly troubling (other than the fact it’s “fake”) is that a majority of U.S. adults – 62% – get their news on social media, and 18% do so often, according to a survey by Pew Research Center.

Now consider students. As a former college professor teaching public speaking, I explained why key points and messaging in presentations required  – no, demanded – the use of evidence. Objective data and facts from reliable sources. We covered how to source that information. Yet effectively evaluating source and site credibility was an issue for many student researchers.

In a Stanford Graduate School of Education study cited in an NPR article:

Many assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally savvy about what they find there, the researchers wrote. Our work shows the opposite.

Gone are the days of “depending” on others to vet sources, according to Stanford researcher Sam Wineberg, a professor in the Stanford University Graduate School of Education cited in the NPR news story.

The kinds of duties that used to be the responsibility of editors, of librarians now fall on the shoulders of anyone who uses a screen to become informed about the world. And so the response is not to take away these rights from ordinary citizens but to teach them how to thoughtfully engage in information seeking and evaluating in a cacophonous democracy.

We can do better. And we must.

Marketing Personal

No amount of “public relations” will address this cat killing

Cat illustrationI hesitated in crafting the headline for this post, then realized it supported the key points I’m about to make.

Social media is transforming why, where, when and how we communicate. The landscape continues to change. Nothing is private, especially when we choose to post about it.

Veterinarian Dr. Kristen Lindsey is out of a job at the Washington Animal Clinic in Brenham, Texas after recently posting a graphic photo on her Facebook page. It shows her holding up a cat shot with an arrow, and says “My first bow kill. lol. The only good feral tomcat is one with an arrow through it’s (sic) head. Vet of the year award…gladly accepted.”

Earlier today, the Washington Animal Clinic’s website opened with this message (the site has now been taken down):

Dear Friends, Clients, and other interested folks. We just learned of the conduct that is discussed on Facebook. We are absolutely appalled, shocked, upset, and disgusted by the conduct. We have parted ways with Ms. Lindsey. We do not allow such conduct and we condemn it in the strongest possible manner. Please know that when informed of this we responded swiftly and appropriately and please do not impute this awful conduct to the Washington Animal Clinic or any of its personnel.

According to the Dallas Morning News, a Texas sheriff said Saturday that he could not arrest and charge a veterinarian shown in a Facebook post bragging about killing a cat with a bow and arrow unless an investigation determines the picture of the dead cat is genuine. Needless to say, this story is now trending on social media including Facebook and Twitter.

Are there lessons to be learned here? I can think of a few:

  • Don’t underestimate the power of social media
  • Do the right thing
  • Hire the right people

I would like to say that Dr. Lindsey made a mistake in judgment and that’s true, but this incident involves much more than a poor decision to post on Facebook. Her actions, captured with a photo and comment, tell us what we need to know about her.