Sometimes you just want to believe. And sometimes you can’t help but believe.
Maybe it’s the kid inside all of us. Maybe it’s the skill of a person who produced reality TV and knows how to lay out a hoax that can take in those of us who are self-described cynics.
In any case, this year seemed to be one with far too many Internet hoaxes to count. As NPR’s Arun Rath reports, this year Internet hoaxes had us clicking for more.
A lot of people and some news organizations were fooled by Internet hoaxes this year. From that twerking girl who caught on fire to the TV producer going to war with the rude lady in seat 7A to the not-very-poor blogger who so eloquently wrote about living in poverty. So many of these stories have taken hold, 2013 has been called the year of the Internet hoax.
If you’ve been taken in, take heart. Grantland writer Tess Lynch says you are not alone.
People will always be susceptible to hoaxes. Hopefully journalists can resist the temptation to advance them and instead follow their inner skeptic and ask some questions before helping give perpetrators their 15 minutes of fame.
Read the transcript here.
Listen to the audio story here.
“It has to be true. I read it on the Internet.”
How many times have you heard someone say that, or said it yourself? Most always, this phrase is used in jest as a satirical or sarcastic was of casting doubt on something with dubious credibility. Yet stories go viral with great speed and little apparent fact-checking on sites that otherwise present themselves as credible news organizations.
Ravi Somaiya and Leslie Kaufman, writing for The New York Times, take a look at how the race to be first (and thus gain the most traffic) often comes at the expense of being factual.
Their creators describe them essentially as online performance art, never intended to be taken as fact. But to the media outlets that published them, they represented the lightning-in-a-bottle brew of emotion and entertainment that attracts readers and brings in lucrative advertising dollars.
When the tales turned out to be phony, the modest hand-wringing that ensued was accompanied by an admission that viral trumps verified — and that little will be done about it as long as the clicks keep coming. “You are seeing news organizations say, ‘If it is happening on the Internet that’s our beat,’ ” said Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. “The next step of figuring out whether it happened in real life is up to someone else.”
Read the entire article here.
Updated at 2pm 12.10.2013 to include…
Read a different take from Matthew Ingram at GigaOm here.