Social media conspiracies, by Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor
July 7, 2016 Share

Social media conspiracies, by Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor

Featured image: Mine-Resistant Armored Protected Vehicles (MRAPS) being shipped for duty around the globe. Similar vehicles painted white and marked “U.N.” caused an internet stir late last week when seen in Virginia.


By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor

tyler@southerntorch.com

For those of us (which is most of us) who view our Facebook feed daily, we are always inundated with those news stories that seem plausible, but also seem a little far-fetched. As the world of social media continuously evolves, “faux-media” seems to be popping up more than real news information.

Even myself who follows legitimate news outlets from around the globe can get briefly fooled by a quickly read headline on Facebook. One of the quickest way to verify a story’s authenticity is to find the name of the news source, visit it’s home page, and if the majority of the subject matter is mermaid or Elvis sighting related, it might be a good indicator that the source is less than reliable.

Many would ask what an individual or entity would gain from spreading fake news stories throughout social media. The answer is a fairly simple one; money. The next time you are tricked into clicking on a post before realizing the headline was too outrageous to be true (do not be ashamed, it happens to the best of us), pay close attention to how many pop-ups invade your browser and ads for weird fruits to lose weight or “neat” tricks to save money on your auto insurance. Each one of those annoying ads generates revenue for the host site.

Very little of that revenue actually comes from readers clicking on those ads and purchasing products. The fake news outlets sell those ads and pop-ups at a rate based on how many visits the page gets. So to put it simply, there exists a lucrative job in creating outrageous, almost believable headlines and news stories to spread throughout social media. These modern day “tabloid” writers are charging advertising rates based on how many people visit their page, regardless if the content is read or not.

Even some of the more legitimate outlets are cashing in on driving traffic to their website by posting questionable stories. Providing me with a perfect example, late last week the popular conservative pundit Glenn Beck posted a story on facebook accompanied by a cell phone image of white, armored vehicles with the black “U.N.” logo etched on the side. The vehicles were being transported by 18-wheeler down a Virginia interstate. The purpose of the post was to question why U.N. vehicles were on American soil, while you can also click on one of the many links on the side of the page which will help you, “Defend yourself from any attacker,” or “Survive the coming financial crisis,” or even straight-up buy some gold.

Of course this week, Beck’s website issued a new story “debunking” the theory that the vehicles were being staged to take over America. From serving proudly in the United States Army, I do not need Mr. Beck to let me know the coast is clear. With no research needed, I easily identified the vehicles as Mine-Resistant Armor Protected Vehicles, also known as MRAPs. These vehicles are produced domestically, and provide mine resistant transportation for troops serving around the globe. The vehicles are produced by the Ford Motor Corporation not only for our servicemen, but are built under contract for U.N. peacekeeping forces.

Now while it’s highly debatable that the U.N. actually brings stability to the areas around the globe that they operate, it’s certain that their vehicles are being produced right here at home, providing us with more jobs and revenue.

Make no mistake, Beck and the good people at “The Blaze” immediately knew this was not a hostile U.N. takeover, but also knew that if they posted the images and lead the reader into that assumption, that simple post would spread like wildfire. This raises ad revenue for his website tremendously.

Once the initial outrage plays out and advertising profits have peaked, Beck simply reignites it by posting a story, “debunking” the invasion theory. The “debunking” story will also generate as much advertising revenue and spread like the original, while reassuring you that Beck, in all his wisdom, had gotten to the bottom of this infinite mystery. Make no mistake, those vehicles were never a mystery to the staff at glennbeck.com.

In the modern era in which we live, never has so much information been available to so many. It’s mind blowing to think about, but any known information on the planet can be accessed by your smart phone. While this should lead to a vast widening of knowledge across the globe, more and more are using networks to spread misinformation for profit or to promote their own agenda.

While it seems like fake information invading our news feed will just become the norm, there are small things individual social media users can do to help make fake news less profitable. First, think before you click! Each visit provides the annoying advertisers more incentive to continue running their ad. If someone really found a mermaid skeleton, Foxnews or CNN would tell you long before the World Wide Global News Network Corporation will let you know on Facebook. Also, check on a story’s authenticity before sharing. By sharing you only expose that many more people and drive up their profit margins, not to mention spreading false information.

While spreading misinformation for profit may only seem a nuisance now, imagine what it could do when not motivated by profit, but by evil. In the words of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s leading misinformation minister, “Propaganda should be popular, not intellectually pleasing. It is not the task of propaganda to discover intellectual truths.”

Educate yourself, because true knowledge is the only counterbalance in this world of misinformation.

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