It can happen to any of us. It does happen to almost all of us.
We see a story online that shocks us and seems just true enough.
Normally, we check things out before we share them, but this is so unbelievable we need to get the news out as soon as possible.
We post it on Facebook or retweet it. Before we know it, others have shared the story.
Only then do we find out the truth – it was fake.
I noticed several people worriedly posting an article claiming Pope Francis concluded the Third Vatican Council by announcing the Catholic Church was making revolutionary changes to their core doctrines.
They were not alone. The post has more than 10,000 shares on Facebook.
In the main section of the article, they quote the Pope as saying:
“All religions are true, because they are true in the hearts of all those who believe in them. What other kind of truth is there? In the past, the church has been harsh on those it deemed morally wrong or sinful. Today, we no longer judge. Like a loving father, we never condemn our children. Our church is big enough for heterosexuals and homosexuals, for the pro-life and the pro-choice! For conservatives and liberals, even communists are welcome and have joined us. We all love and worship the same God.”
I will not link the blog and give them any additional traffic, but if you dig down a few layers, you will find an admission that “the original content on this blog is largely satirical.”
In fact, the writer says that he created the blog for his “own personal amusement.”
I’m sure he is highly amused by all of the traffic and attention his site is garnering through sensational, but entirely fake “news” stories.
The easiest way to disprove the content of the post is the fact that there has not been a Third Vatican Council, as the writer claims.
The post claimed the Third Vatican Council has lasted the last six months. That would have been extremely difficult and unlikely for Pope Francis since that would have required him to call a council three months into his papacy.
As I said at the beginning, sharing a fake story can happen to any of us, so we must be diligent in pursuing the truth and double-checking our facts, especially with controversial stories.
Christians, above all others, must be concerned with and dedicated to the truth – even (especially) on social media.
Related: 3 Rules of Social Media Integrity