Many were shocked this week at the apparent death of a film legend and all-American icon, Sylvester Stallone. Short news blurbs like the one below appeared across the Internet and flooded social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, prompting thousands of mournful reactions from longtime fans of the film icon.
The public was hit again with another surprise shortly after, when the entire story was revealed to be a hoax, with major news outlets spreading the word that Stallone was, in fact, alive and well. Stallone himself used his own Instagram to confirm that he was alive, healthy, and “still punching.” While the hoax may have been a simple amusement to most, I wonder if this incident may be an indication of how easily we accept news we see on social media and other, typically less credible news sites.
Despite the fact that the phrase, "fake news," has become somewhat of a meme online, I think that it is very important that we carefully analyze and fact-check information that we come across every day, no matter where it comes from. Though it may not seem like it, buying into misleading or fabricated news can have potentially disastrous effects for everyone involved.
Just last year, a false piece of news emerged on the official twitter of the Associated Press, claiming that the White House had been hit by an explosion, injuring then-President Obama and the First Lady. Though the news was quickly corrected and apologies were issued, the four minutes it took for the corrections to be made were enough for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 Index to tick down one percent, resulting in billions of dollars temporarily disappearing.
I myself was shocked when I first saw the news while scrolling through Facebook. I quickly learned of the hoax while reading the comments, though I wonder how long I would have waited before fact-checking the story myself.
It would be interesting to perhaps conduct a poll or something asking others how long it took them to realize the truth. I’m sure that there is at least one person who heard the “news” and hasn’t been brought up to speed yet and many others who never heard anything in the first place.
If there’s one thing we all can learn from this prank, it’s that we should all be more careful and skeptical of the news we see and read every day.