Whether they are true or not, stories that are spread on social media sites often end up high on the agenda. And what make matters worse: Journalists very seldom examine those “facts” – but now Metro has launched “Viralgranskaren” [The Viral Eye] to establish what’s false and what’s true – and to what degree.

Urban Brådhe

You might not realize, but every time you share a link, update your status or upload an Instragram photo, you tell a little story about yourself, about the time you live in or about the place where you live. The web has enabled us to tell more stories than ever before – and as we talk about the world we also shape it.

Not infrequently, these stories spread widely once a Facebook status is shared. Before long, the story goes viral, reaching thousands, tens of thousands or even more people without anyone scrutinizing it. But far from everything that goes viral is a picture of a cute cat or dog – and that’s where “Viralgranskaren” plays an important role.

The gripping story of Marcia Karlsson’s fate went viral. Allegedly, she had been murdered by her ex-boyfriend, an immigrant living in a housing facility for refugee seekers. Also, her murder had never made the headlines and many believed journalists had decided not to write about it fearing it would incite xenophobia. Social media was flooded by angry comments – anger over something that had never happened. The story was totally fabricated, an investigation by “Viralgranskaren” revealed. Marcia Karlsson never existed.

In another case, the investigation showed how a Facebook-posting led to a woman’s protected identity being revealed. After leaving her abusive husband she assumed a new name and was given a new social security number when authorities established she was in danger. Without mentioning the background of his story, the man posted a “missing” update on his Facebook page together with photographs of his children. What seemed like a heart-wrenching story went viral. And even though the woman had moved to another town her whereabouts were revealed to her ex-husband.

There are those who still believe Marcia Karlsson was murdered by her asylum-seeking former boyfriend. Some still believe sharing a plea to help find someone’s children is commendable. Also, many who have read Metro’s stories realize everything is not always as straightforward as it seem.

Those are fascinating times and it is a good thing that everyone can tell their story. But when people’s perceptions are changed due to false information going viral it is important that someone can step in and examine what’s true and what’s not. We are paid to do it, but we need your help.

We want to examine the stories that pass your feeds and let you know if they are genuine and you are more than welcome to tip us off should you notice something that seems too interesting to be true – or something that seems so true that many will find it interesting and pass it on. Let us check before you share.

Why newsrooms gobbled up the fake story about floundering nationalists

► Dear journalist colleagues, this is why we shouldn't publish stories based on anonymous web comments

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► Därför startar vi Viralgranskaren

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► Tidigare uppmärksammade virala storys

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