Misinformation On The Internet: How Bad Is It?

Ever since the smartphone revolution and the rise of social media as the new marketplace of ideas, access to all kinds of information has never been easier. In fact, A PEW study reveals that “14% of social network site users, or 6% of adults, have raised money for or drawn attention to a health‐related issue or cause.”


Information on health care, politics, and even the latest international celebrity gossips can be found on the internet – with a simple click and swipe, you can get any information under the sun — both good and bad information.


Along with the ease of getting information also came the rise of the easy spread of misinformation. Fake news spread like wildfire on social media, and has been used as tools for the spreading of propaganda and pushing of other agendas, may it be political or otherwise.



You might be thinking now “what does that have to do with me? I know I can’t be fooled by these fake news and lies.” You may be immune to these misleading information, but not everyone is as discerning. And you’ll feel the effects of these fake news even if you don’t fall for it.



How Bad Is Misinformation On Social Media?

Misinformation or “fake news”, as it’s popularly called on social media, can have some real-world consequences if social media users are not vigilant or discerning enough to see through the lie.


The most popular example of the harmful effects of fake news and misinformation is the 2016 US election, where some say that fake news was used for the current US president to win the elections. Of course, these are all still speculations but the repercussions are definitely there.

Singapore, too, has not been spared by fake news. Channelnewsasia.com reports:


“Back in 2016, a report of a roof collapse at the Housing and Development Board project Punggol Waterway Terraces, with a photo of the upper storeys in a crumbled state, set social media abuzz… In the case of the roof collapse, the police, the Singapore Civil Defence Force as well as HDB and town council officers rushed to the scene, only to learn that it was fake news – wasting resources and causing alarm.”



These are just some real-world effects of fake news spreading on social media. And the worrying part? A study found that fake news is “70 per cent more likely to be retweeted by people than true news.” So combating the damage caused by fake news is not an easy task.



Social Media And The Spiral Of Silence

Another reason why it’s so hard to combat the harmful effects of misinformation on social media is due to the spiral of silence, which is much more prevalent on social media than on traditional media.


For anyone who has taken a communication theory 101 class in university or college, you’ll be familiar with Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann’s theory of “spiral of silence”. For those who haven’t heard of it, here’s a short overview of the theory:


“Originally proposed by German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann in 1974, Spiral of silence is the term meant to refer to the tendence of people to remain silent when they feel that their views are in opposition to the majority view on a subject. The theory posits that they remain silent for a few reasons: 1) Fear of isolation when the group or public realizes that the individual has a divergent opinion from the status quo. 2) Fear of reprisal or more extreme isolation, in the sense that voicing said opinion might lead to a negative consequence beyond that of mere isolation (loss of a job, status, etc.)”


According to the theory, anyone who feels they’re part of the minority will tend to keep silent, even if their opinion is correct or justifiable. As long as the opinion is against the majority’s opinion, the spiral of silence takes place.



This is a behaviour that is very prevalent on social media today. Trolls dominate discussions and throw personally offensive remarks against those who are against their opinion. It’s a scare tactic used to keep opposing opinions from breaking through what people have established as “true” and “factual”.



What Can You Do?

The dangers of misinformation and fake news is that some advertisers and market specialists try to use them to their advantage, especially if it can help malign their competitors or irrationally scare consumers into buying their product and services


Whether you’re an online influencer or an online business trying to gain more customers, avoiding fake news is the best strategy. Consumers will appreciate your honesty, and you won’t get into any negative publicity in the long run.


Number one rule of thumb when handling your social media: remain authentic. Even when a false information can be used to your advantage, the effect once you’ve been found out to be spreading fake news will always be negative to your brand’s authenticity and can damage your brand’s reputation.

Long story short: Avoid fake news. Be real. Because everyone wants a brand that’s honest.



Fight Fake News By Being Real

In a time when fake news and misinformation is rampant on the internet and social media, it’s hard for brands not to fall for these fake news and false information. But no matter how well-established a false information is, the chances of it being reversed is high especially with big personalities advocating against fake news. And if you’re a brand that’s been spreading fake news, you’re not going to like the backlash your brand will get once you’ve been found out.


Want to avoid destroying your brand’s image by making sure you’re only providing real and authentic information to your audience and consumers? Hire a competent SEO team to help you manage your social media pages and avoid falling for fake news.