In a previous blog https://bronwizview.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/animal-welfare-hoaxing-the-role-of-social-media-and-the-impacts-on-those-involved/ I described a recent animal welfare scam. Hoaxes such as this one are worryingly common.
The following ten tips mean that some time and a little detective work is required but in the long run it may prevent even more of your time being wasted, as well as energy, emotions and even money, on what are false claims, scams and hoaxes.
I would suggest that we all have a responsibility that, before sharing posts and information on social media sites, we check what we are distributing is accurate, true and authentic. If we do not take control of what we share we, at the very least, cause annoyance and concern to our friends and acquaintances. At the worst the welfare agencies, who are already overwhelmed with cases and reports, can spend significant time and energy responding to high levels of calls and reports which takes staff away from real welfare work. World Horse Welfare (WHW) recently posted a request to social media users to only call them if they have first hand information as WHW were experiencing very high levels of calls and reports that were clogging up their phone lines https://www.facebook.com/WorldHorseWelfare
As detailed in my earlier bog another very concerning outcome of animal welfare hoxes is that other social media users can be put at risk by responding with offers of help which can involve them visiting areas or sites. Consider this before reposting any welfare items.
- Read as many posts and comments on the page or group as you can to help you get a ‘feel’ of what‘s happening and how others are responding.
- Do a bit of research – look at who the administrators of a group are, or an individual commentator is. Have a look at their personal profiles and any other connected pages / groups that they may be involved in. Have a look at who administrators have invited to join the group.
- Check out other similar groups and what they are saying.
- Google the individuals involved, check their activity on other social networking sites and visit any websites that they have.
- If you have significant concerns check with recognised animal welfare agencies in the area. You could also contact the police and trading standards to see if they are aware of issues in the locality.
- Search for any local newspapers for reports of animal welfare issues. They are unlikely to print anything that they have been unable to verify.
- Check out any photographs being used, are they actually from other, historical welfare cases?
- Consider messaging others who are voicing concerns on the social media site to see if others are identifying the same issues as you.
- Check if what is being presented is actually a reposting of an old animal welfare story from some time ago.
- Listen to your instincts, if you feel there is something not quite right, take notice of it. Think about someone who you really trust, who is level headed and thoughtful – what would they say about the information that is being presented when weighed up with the information you have gathered from your internet searches?
So reader, beware. Social media can be used to do a great deal of good, but in a small, but significant, number of cases real harm can be done, to those taken in by a hoax, to those who may be wrongly identified as being at fault in some way and with a major impact on already overstretched welfare agencies. We can all play our part in spreading a false report of a welfare issue and therefore we all need to take responsibility for acting with caution and care.