A cautionary tale unfolded this past week when the #baldforbieber began trending on Twitter. Tween’s across the country immediately began to tweet out the hashtag after the cancer rumors were sparked by the photo-sharing online bulletin known as 4Chan. The post included screen shots of a “verified” Entertainment Tonight account tweet and what appeared to be an official Justin Bieber tweet. Here is a picture of the alleged tweet:
Once the hashtag and tweet went viral, notorious over zealous and obsessive Bieber fans began tweeting what appear to be genuine pictures of their shaved heads, it support of the pop star.
Eventually, after someone tweeted at Bieber’s bodyguard the rumors were dispelled and the prank was revealed. This however, is current proof of the need for fact checking in social media.
Social media has made the world a different place, a more visible place. While that visibility can prove useful and important it also calls for a more critical eye. Social media allows for a unlimited amount of voices, and todays youth often turn to social media as their main information and news source. This prank is proof positive that verified tweets can be modified.
Fact checking is vital when the information is coming from a thousand different sources who have the unique and new advantage of hiding behind technology. In the #baldforbieber example, if these young girls had just checked Bieber’s actual twitter timeline, they would have seen that this “confirmation tweet” never existed in the first place, and that a screen shot was just modified and posted on a different site.
Fact checking is also vital when younger people have access to social media. Kids are exposed to new media earlier each year. Some kids can unlock an iphone and open up a game of Temple Run before they can even tie their shoes. Kids are impressionable and passionate, and if they see online that their “idol” has cancer they are bound to react. Social media fact checking should be encouraged for anyone involved, but specifically in children who might not see through the curtain of technology.
The internet is free and open to everyone that has access, therefore no one is checking to make sure scandals like #baldforbieber don’t happen. Social media is built on the idea of interaction, well as users we have to take advantage of that interaction and check facts. We can’t just believe any tweet that pops up in our timelines.