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5 memorable social media hoaxes, lies and crossed wires

Needless to say, it’s not just public relations companies like Smoking Gun PR that appreciate the power of modern digital communications to do both good and bad. Everyone understands that with such startling power comes significant responsibility.
The Arab Spring provides a great example of how social media and social networks can be used to enact change, which in theory is for the better (albeit the subsequent interim governments and civil wars in the countries involved weren’t the ideal outcome). Meanwhile, barely a day goes by without someone, somewhere, deciding to tweet a comment with the sole intention of starting the rumour mill churning and tricking unsuspecting types. Then there’s the speculation that emerges from mis-read information, or worse still a lack of clarity on the part of the storyteller.
Indeed, as regular readers of our blog will know the problem has got so bad one group of programmers claims to have created a social media lie detector, which is capable of back checking sources and working out whether a post is actually legitimate or not. We’ll have to see whether the creation can stand up to such promises, and if it makes any difference at all, but in the meantime here are five examples of social media hoaxes and untruths that have resulted from crossed wires, over-active online imaginations, or both. Take a look and see which ones you fell for.
Cher dies 
Following the passing of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher the Twitter hashtag #nowthatchersgone began trending. Then a few people got confused, and read the phrase as now-that-cher’s-gone, immediately taking to digital channels to try and confirm if the Life After Love songstress had indeed passed, alarming a number of her fans in the process before someone finally confirmed she was alive and well.
Google Nose
Announced on 1st April last year, it still amazes us that people fell hook, line and sinker for this whopper from the internet gatekeeper. Put simply, the tech giant’s latest innovation following the dawn of Google Glass was, allegedly, a new smell-search function, logically named Google Nose. It didn’t take long for clued up observers to put two and two together, but for a short time people were duped by this video:

Facebook will shut down on 15th March 2011
What began as a hoax story on fake news site Weekly World News soon spread like wildfire. Mark Zuckerberg was reportedly coming to the end of his tether with the beast in blue, and had decided to pull the plug on Facebook. The date was set- 15th March 2011- and panic soon ensued as users began questioning how they would ever cope in a post-Facebook world. Needless to say, the record was soon set straight.
It’s not Hurricane Sandy, it’s The Day After Tomorrow
OK, so clearly Hurricane Sandy was a very real storm that hit the Americas in 2012. It’s also undeniable that it caused plenty of damage. However, the apocalyptic images that began circulating on the Internet- including PC desktop wallpapers originally designed to promote the movie The Day After Tomorrow (below) and a picture of a shark swimming down a New Jersey street- were pushing it. Still, people shared and shared alike.
Friends to return in ‘The One After The Ten Year Break’
At one point it seemed as though Friends would be shown forever, such was the prevalence of Channel 4 and E4’s repeats. Now missing from our screens for several years, the programme is still extremely popular, hence the number of people that latched onto this image recently, alluding to a brand new instalment in the story of the infamous five. Turns out a 21-year-old guy put it together on his computer in the hope of getting a few likes from friends on Facebook.

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