Christianity is an excellent example of how a message or record of events can go viral. A charismatic founder who beats death, an inspirational message filled with hope about life after death, forgiveness, betrayal, early adopter evangelists who spread the word and convert new users. The key to growth was the distribution channel called the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire had an efficient postal system and Roman roads which connected communities with information. It was the postal and transportation system that spread the word.
It still works like that today with what we are call Fake News:
A compelling story that people want to believe. Rabid believers spread the word with clicks, likes, retweets and forwards. Instead of Roman roads, we have Facebook and Twitter that is then turbocharged with paid advertising. Social media doesn’t create the lies, but the platforms have made falsehoods more prolific.
15 years ago it was the FWD FWD FWD FWD email you received from a second cousin’s uncle. A quick delete, filter, and block was easy and he message was contained in an email distribution list. In 2018 dishonest content is way better networked via friend connections, and recommendation algorithms than a plain text email from AOL or Hotmail address.
It’s encouraging to see YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook cracking down on bots and false stories. I think the truth will win, but it’s going to need our help.
So what can you do?
- Click with compassion
- Verify the source before you share a story
- Pay for your insights and news, don’t read the free stuff. I recommend the Washington Post
- Don’t click on salacious headlines
- Block and report the trolls
- Don’t feed the daily outrage machine by piling on