And what about all those posts, blogs, and articles that we share on FB? Can I investigate more thoroughly before I click share? Here are just a couple of things worth considering when investigating the sources of what we post:
What is the actual address of that website? The legitimacy of a shared posting or shared quiz, such as that game, coupon, or other marketed post you want to share with your FB friends, will almost surely show on the actual domain name of the website that you have clicked to from the shared post, quiz, or blog article. To find that out, click on the address bar in your browser (i.e., box at the top of that webpage) of any website to look at the full domain name on the URL (i.e., entire http//:www.address); if that web address looks fishy (i.e., it doesn’t sound like the kind of address that matches that company’s real website or the address doesn’t look like it matches any legitimate-looking company), the website might not really be sponsored by the company you think that you are clicking to, but actually something about it might be false. If the article or blog post says it is from some or another news source, like the New York Times, then if the website or Facebook page is a little off from that, say, “Newyourk Times” or some such, pay attention to that and be warned.
A caveat to that point is that sometimes the web address of a company doesn’t necessarily look like a match to a site. This might happen for several reasons, since sites are hosted in lots of various ways, including those free hosting sites that want to include some of their business’ name in the web address; also, some hosting companies or some parent companies of businesses have domain names that rule over the whole organization. For example, a daughter company or a company that merged or was bought out might have a website name that reflects the larger corporate entity of which the site you want is only a small part. Also URLs/web addresses have always been dispensed on a first-come, first-serve basis to whoever pays for the name, even if they have nothing to do with the actual company; in this case, some individual was able to get a jump on a name and then sort of hold it for ransom to the highest bidder, so sometimes the name someone wants is simply already owned. However, most large companies, like Target or Coke, pay for the URL or website name that they want and own the legitimate web addresses to match pretty well with their name. In most cases, whatever entity is trying to drive you to its website, should have a website or domain name that makes sense to you. In other words, what you think is a “funny” or not matching web address, might not really be funny at all; therefore, matching the name to the site is a yellow light for skepticism, but not a full stop sign.
A bigger flashing light to raise our skepticism about the originator of a shared article or posting: after following back on a shared post, worry if you find that the website that shared it doesn’t contain any findable identifying information that indicates the identity of the site or the articles’ publishers or authors. If a website hasn’t posted any information about who they are, such as is found on an “About page,” a “Contact us” page, or an “Archive” or “History” page, then be skeptical about whatever they are publishing or sharing. Everything published should be verifiable and subject to reasonable push-back, whether the information sets the date for the original publication, research study, or the names and qualification of the author or researcher. “Who said that? Why should I believe them? What are their credentials?” are essential questions that always need answers. If no answers to these questions can be determined from the site, don’t bother sharing items from that site. Some sites welcome feedback and host discussion forums about the topics addressed. Reading through this feedback can enrich the experience on the website, but of course often, there is a lot of garbage found on such discussions. When you are sharing articles, don’t forget that you are also sharing the discussion boards, the ads, the other links that are on that website, so anything you share, will also share whatever links to that link. These links are a chain; we are talking about the metaphor of a “web,” after all. You could unknowingly be linking your family and friends to a chain of inaccurate or unsupported information .
Also, if the originating dates of the blogs, postings, or articles you find on these sites are older than a year or two, or if the articles don’t have any supporting evidence, such as the citations for the references to their claims, then I would not share anything from that website (or believe anything that they say, actually). Frequently, I have seen someone share an “article” on FB, that when “clicked,” shows a website or a blog that paraphrases or quotes another blog or website, that when clicked, leads to a seemingly endless chain of websites/blogs/links that have quoted from that same article, but none of them have ever attributed the work to an author or a date or an original published source for the material. If you do happen to follow all of this and find the beginning link in the chain, often you will find yourself several years—if not decades—into old material with a questionable validity to begin with and one that has clearly become outdated. Sadly, the lie, the debunked, and the misinformed have an “eternal” life online, because the unsubstantiated, the inaccurate, and the outdated are linked and shared unendingly.