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Fake news: 5 dangers of spreading fake news

Explaining the term “fake news” is probably unnecessary — it has been around for some time now and has even become a topic of discussion on social networks and in barroom conversations. Basically, we are referring to fake news that is disseminated on the Internet with the aim of spreading disinformation and influencing citizens on a topic that is usually highly relevant. Quite often, a single person creates a piece of fake news, which ends up going viral.

In theory, we all know that fake news is harmful. Most social networks have implemented mechanisms to prevent it from spreading, including artificial intelligence and teams of professionals specialized in verifying whether what is being shared is real. Nevertheless, it is increasingly difficult to control the spread of fake news on other media, such as podcasts and content hosted on video-sharing platforms.

But… how about in practice? Do you know the real impacts and dangers that disinformation can cause in your life and of your family members? We've listed a few examples so you can acquire a more comprehensive perspective on the subject and help fight this.

1) Dangers to your digital safety

Cast the first stone who has never read messages advertising a new premium version of WhatsApp or about being blocked on Facebook, asking you for your credentials to a specific page to restore access. This kind of disinformation is simply another social engineering scam disguised as popular news, usually as a way to spread malware or steal logins from unsuspecting netizens.

So, yes, there is fake news that can be an actual risk to your security in the digital world, devised by cybercriminals and shared as chain messages.

2) Dangers to your health

Ever since immunization against COVID-19 began, lots of content telling people not to be vaccinated were shared, claiming the vaccines contained substances that are harmful to the human body. Even conspiracy theories went along for the misinformation ride, sparking debates about plans for global control.

However, this problem did not begin with the coronavirus pandemic. Some time ago, due to the spread of fake news, Brazil witnessed a drop in vaccination rates against measles and polio among children. Because of this, there was a significant increase in the number of cases of these diseases, which were considered almost entirely eradicated. 

3) Dangers to a person’s physical integrity 

Over the past few years, several innocent citizens have been singled out as wanted criminals by police authorities. Either because they have a name or face similar to the real transgressor, these people had their personal data exposed and were literally hunted down by those who wished to take justice into their own hands.

In some cases, when the victims were able to prove their innocence, it was already too late: there have been cases of innocent people being lynched and even killed by angry crowds, convinced that they were face-to-face with the real criminal. Several law enforcement agencies have issued warnings regarding the dangers of this type of fake news.

4) Dangers to your finances

The Brazilian population has never been as engaged in matters related to investments and finance as now — which may be a reflection of the challenging current economic situation. On the one hand, this interest is good. On the other, it's all the disinformation creators need to spread fake news on new money-making opportunities.

Particularly regarding the highly controversial cryptocurrencies, we see fake predictions, fake initial coin offerings, and fake automated profit schemes becoming more and more common. It is better not to put the cart in front of the horse and look for information from reliable sources.

5) Dangers to citizenship

Finally, without delving deep into political issues, it is widely known that most fake news is related to politics. False information about candidate X or party Y is shared freely on social networks and always goes viral in the hands — or rather, by the clicks — of supporters on the opposite side. No wonder government entities are preparing to mitigate disinformation ahead of the upcoming presidential elections.

Research is the best solution!

As you can see, fake news is detrimental to our security as a whole, not only in the cybersphere, but also in our personal and social lives. Therefore, it is very important that we all do our part to prevent the spread of fake news. Before sharing an article, carefully evaluate the source of the information and, preferably, check the veracity of the content in other reliable sources. Go to fact-checking websites, and if in doubt, don't share it! This way, we will be building a much safer world for all!

Article originally written in Portuguese by Perallis Security Content Team: Fake news: conheça 5 perigos que notícias falsas podem trazer — Perallis Security