‘Facebook Nostradamus’ and things you have to know to avoid hoaxes

If you happen to scroll through you Facebook feed this past week, you might have come across this post, written in late 2015, which predicted events this year and foreshadowing events that has yet to happen.

[Caption: Facebook post of ‘FB Nostradamus’ Pablo Reyes]

[caption: Facebook post of ‘FB Nostradamus’ Pablo Reyes]

Most of Pablo Reyes’ predictions came true, including the death of singer Prince, famous boxer Muhammad Ali, and even stating that Donald Trump too will die (which added a bit of excitement, LOL) and that Hillary Clinton will be elected as president this year.

Unfortunately, to the disappointment of everyone, this post is clearly a hoax.

How did he do it?

Elena Cresci of The Guardian was among the first to notice that this post by Reyes was an old post which was just edited. It’s hard to notice immediately since Facebook does not clearly indicate that the post is edited unless you click the arrow on the upper right corner of the post.

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Then the editing history pops up.

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So now, how can we know if a Facebook post is a hoax?

There are tons of stories on Facebook but only a fraction of it carries a grain of truth. Here’s how you can know whether a post is a hoax or not (you know, to save you from false excitement and unnecessary stress. J)

  1. Don’t trust any post or story that asks you to share it first or comment first before reading or seeing it.

No real, reputable person or news agency will require you to do this. On the minimum, news agencies only need your clicks, but not your shares or comments. Hoax posts depend on these shares so they get famous.

  1. ‘News’ stories that are too odd like dinosaurs, unicorns, and mermaids, are certainly untrue.

Hoax stories are now covered even by reputable news agencies, like when President Aquino’s “Time Magazine cover” was mistakenly published on the front page of a broadsheet. Despite this, there is always a limit into the extent of coverage, and dinosaurs, and unicorns are certainly outside this limit. It’s better not to click or share stories like this to avoid malwares or virus pestering your computer or device.

  1. Posts about Facebook itself is so meta.

This is one of the most hilarious thing about social media. Since around 2009, we have already observed posts about ‘Facebook closing down’ or ‘Mark Zuckerberg giving away billions of dollars to random FB users’ to the point that Facebook created a page dedicated to answering all the myths about itself.

Next time you come across a page sowing fear that someday you need to pay to use your favorite social media platform, always remember that Facebook said it will always be free.

  1. Satire news agencies will always go for the sensational

Locally, there are tons of fake or satire news websites whose intention is either to fool you or to make you feel angry or excited so much you’ll share their fake content. It’s quite tricky to separate which is which, but careful observation will let you identify which is reputable or not. For example, all news agencies display the name of their writers and authors in their articles as part of their code of conduct.

Another indication of authenticity is the disclosure of an editorial board or editors, owners, and those who are responsible as well as contact details if you need to reach them. Again, fake ‘news’ websites don’t want this because they don’t want accountability to what they write.

  1. Most importantly, be skeptic of what you read on Facebook.

Unless you have already verified the information you have read, the initial reaction to every Facebook post should be skepticism. If you think a friend wrongfully disclosed a private or controversial matter that might be untrue, you can message him or her to always verify or check on other sources. If you have read news with questionable integrity, you can always check on known reputable news agencies or on clustered news websites like Google News.

The internet is full of trolls and online liars – a reality we should always remember. Next time we got so excited or angry about a certain Facebook post, let’s check first the reputability and accuracy before sharing it. If we share false information, we are part of the misinformation, so always think before you click. (Hector MJC Brizuela)

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