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A dangerous fake news story about flu shots spread like a virus on Facebook

A dangerous fake news story about flu shots spread like a virus on Facebook
[Photo: Flickr user: Mike MacKenzie]

With recent moves like changing its News Feed algorithm to better surface posts from users’ friends and family, Facebook is paying lip service to the idea that it wants to crack down on the spread of fake news. And it might well work over time. But according to Media Matters for America, a recent false news story about the deadly flu epidemic has been spreading like wildfire on the social network.

The story, posted earlier this week by YourNewsWire, suggested that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control had determined that this year’s flu shot was responsible for many flu-related deaths. In fact, the CDC has said nothing of the kind, and is encouraging people to get a flu shot. Snopes debunked the post soon after it went live.

But the YourNewsWire story resonated with a lot of nervous people on Facebook, generating more than 176,000 engagements there, Media Matters wrote, citing data from BuzzSumo. Facebook may have unverified one of the hoax publication’s two pages, but it clearly hasn’t been able to stop people from sharing the fake news site’s stories. And in a case like this one, where some people may have read the story and chosen not to get a flu shot, clickbait articles can put people’s lives at risk.DT