Note: I should mention that this may be a cultural thing in Indonesia to broadcast or share "helpful news/article" in a group chat, or broadcast it to all contacts in BBM (not group. Broadcast is the most horrible feature that made me flee from BBM). Usually they received a "helpful" article, then proceeded to forward it to various groups they're in.

Today, Alice shared a news that a hospital has a breakthrough in cancer cure and want to help poor people. They just need to send their contact information and the cancer type to an email address. I was skeptic and research the news on the internet, which Google first page easily determine that it's a hoax.

My usual response is replying in group "It's a hoax" and just that. Back then there were far more shares which I instantly recognize as hoax, which I stayed silent, and I just recently started to reply.

Several weeks ago, Jane shared a news of a new traffic regulation, which I think is very helpful. But out of curiosity, I researched with only 3 keywords and found out it's a hoax that's been circulating for more than 5 years (with 1-line modification to make it looks up-to-date).

After I replied in the group, I sent a message roughly like this:

I believe you send the news in good faith. I don't have anything personal. I just don't like "chain message" like that.

Which she replied in mildly harsh tone:

I just want to share information. If you don't like it just don't read it. I think it's a good thing to share positive information. If you think I was wrong, sorry.The last part is clearly not an apology (in Indonesian)

She is not a close friend, but we are in the small circle of religious group (which is the chat for). We're in good terms (until today), but certainly my response has offended her.

How should I respond when someone shared a news/article which I can then prove it's a hoax?

So far, no one responded to shares (only those relevant to our activity are commented), and usually the group is free from chit-chat. No one responded to my disagreement.

My goal is to communicate to members that sharing is encouraged, but first filter out hoaxes from the group. I am just a member. Contacting the group admin should only be a last resort, as I don't want this to be a rule. I want people to do themselves a favor, and educate themselves.

It's very easy to recognize these type of suspicious broadcast. Someone with a common sense should be able to recognize suspicious clues immediately. However, it seems a lot of sharers just hit share button without even finish reading it.

  • 15
    Are you trying to address the fact that it's a hoax or are you trying to prevent people from sending any such articles? "I just don't like 'chain message' like that" very much sends the latter message.
    – NotThatGuy
    Oct 13, 2017 at 5:31
  • 1
    Have you taken the time to explain how to spot a hoax or fake news story?
    – apaul
    Oct 13, 2017 at 5:35
  • @NotThatGuy the first. I'm fine with a lot of shares, but at least do your research first
    – Vylix
    Oct 13, 2017 at 5:35
  • @apaul once. I don't believe people take it seriously, as the unfiltered shares keep going
    – Vylix
    Oct 13, 2017 at 5:36
  • 4
    To be clear: your question is about handling similar situations in future rather than responding to Jane's reaction? Oct 13, 2017 at 7:43

4 Answers 4


If you don't want to discourage someone sharing an article, but you want to point out that it's a hoax, you should:

  • Start by saying something positive about the article or thank the person for sharing it
  • Express some regret (e.g. "unfortunately") that it's a hoax
  • Share a link providing evidence of it being a hoax
  • (Optionally) point out what made you think it might be a hoax in the first place, if you want to try to educate them

For example:

That's a fascinating article. Unfortunately, based on a quick search, it appears to be a hoax: {link}. An open invitation from a hospital seemed a bit suspicious.

People sharing misleading or incorrect information is unfortunately a pretty widespread and severe problem in these social media days - single-handedly changing this even within your circle of friends could be really hard or impossible. Although don't let that dissuade you if you wish to preach to them.

  • 19
    You can't start by saying that was a fascinating article only to go on and explain it was a hoax. How could it have been fascinating then? You could instead say something like "That would have been great news! Unfortunately, it is a hoax because blah blah. . . " Otherwise, it sounds like (and is) completely insincere when you call it fascinating.
    – terdon
    Oct 14, 2017 at 12:14
  • 9
    I'd suggest the word "quick" in "quick search" is a little hostile. Implies they should have easily been able to figure it out themselves (which is true, but a little harsh) Oct 14, 2017 at 20:27

This has actually been a pretty big problem in the US over the last few years... People see something they really like or really hate and share it. It happens so much that many people have trouble spotting "fake news" or hoaxes.

One of my cousins majored in journalism in college, she got up on her soapbox one night and spelled it out for the family.

Facebook is not a news source, Twitter is not a news source. If that's where you get your news, I don't wanna hear about it. News comes from a "Newspaper of record" and even then, if you want to talk to me about it, you better have more than one source. I recommend using three. If you can find the same "breaking" news story in three different respectable newspapers of record, then it's real news.

She was a little stringent about it, but she had a valuable point. Many of us were guilty of finding news online that we wanted to be true, or that we wanted to be outraged about, or both...

Taking my cousin's approach I've definitely gotten much better at spotting biased reporting, fake news, and hoaxes.

I would suggest that you get up on your soapbox and give your friends a similar speech. We live in some pretty messed up times, and unfortunately, people need to hear these things occasionally. It's not enough to tell people that it's a hoax, teach them how to spot the hoax on their own.

  • 3
    Agree, but: "three different respectable newspapers of record" - could still base their articles on the same source - they don't do their own research for every article. I'd make that "independent trustworthy sources". But then again, that may be a little bit over the top.
    – Fildor
    Oct 13, 2017 at 6:42
  • 2
    I don't keep a record ;) - anyway that may well be. I personally however tend not to extrapolate from one view on a specific issue a person holds to their possible view on others. I know I have some "unpopular views" especially when dealing with people from the US. And since I am not a native english speaker some things come across not exactly like I intend them to do. That said, I'm the kind of person who would give his life for your right to disagree with me and say it. If it's reasonable, you might as well convince me, even. But if it's bs, be ready to be called out on it :D
    – Fildor
    Oct 13, 2017 at 7:14
  • 4
    "I'm the kind of person who would give his life for your right to disagree with me and say it." I tend to have the same problem, although it bites me more often than I'd like... @Fildor
    – apaul
    Oct 13, 2017 at 7:17
  • 2
    BTW: If I were to talk bs, I expect you to call me out on it, too. Just do it nicely ;)
    – Fildor
    Oct 13, 2017 at 7:17
  • 4
    These hoaxes, urban legends, and outright politically-originiated LIES do more than just clutter up the social media and also the so-called "news" outlets. Some of them are actually harmful. Sure, it's "a good thing to share positive information," but falsehoods are NOT "positive information." Many of the people on my Facebook "friends" list have more than a thousand friends. If I post garbage and five percent pass it on, it will be over five thousand shares in the third iteration! The dilemma of wanting to prevent this, & not wanting to lose a relative who is insulted by being corrected.
    – WGroleau
    Oct 13, 2017 at 11:59

Question, then show and question, then state it plainly

The best way to make someone retract a statement if they themselves are made to examine it and then reach the conclusion.

So first: ask.

Are you sure about that one? I have some indications it may actually be a fake/hoax story.

In the best of worlds, they will re-examine the story and find out that...

Oh... yes, it seems it was a hoax. Sorry 'bout that.

That allows them to save face and even gain some credibility.

In the less than best of worlds they will get defensive.

The story seems good enough to me!

Then you lead them to the information.

Well, how about the information on this link? What is your opinion?

Maybe now they will relent.

If not... you have given them not just one but two chances to remedy the misinformation. Then you state it plainly.

I am sorry, but the information you posted is unfortunately not true. Here is what that page I linked before says:"

"The news-story about the thing is a fake story that has been circulating the internet for some while".

If they now get defensive, then there is no need to try to accommodate them any more.

Any argument of the sort "If you don't like it..." gets turned back at them, because it applies to them too. They cannot demand that you abide by it if they themselves are not willing to do the same.

Also I am personally of the opinion that truth is an absolute defense in such a case. One should not be asked to suppress truth just to spare the hurt feelings of someone that felt like posting something false.

If they cannot stand the heat...


I think that you have four options

Instruct them on how to self-correct their behavior.

In the past, when the person was receptive to learning and changing their behavior, I have been able to teach the person to research the validity of an article before sending it. You may teach them the characteristics of dubious articles, or teach them to check fact-checking websites, or to do as you did and google the keywords and learn the truth about the article before sending it. This will require some thought and effort on their part. I don't expect this to succeed in your case, but you can try it.

Have them remove you from their communication list

You can ask the person to remove you from their contact list because you find their communication untrustworthy. This will likely offend her and lead to bad feelings, so I don't really suggest it.

Filter all communication from that person

You can set up a filter that quietly discards all communication from this person. This will cause you to miss any relevant communications and may alienate you (or her) from the larger group.

Continue to receive information, but ignore this type of email.

This is the least confrontational. You asked how you should respond. This is how I would suggest you respond. You cannot control what someone else does, you can only control yourself. Just quietly discard the dubious articles that she sends you. There is no benefit to proving that the articles are wrong. She probably feels that she is providing helpful information and feels good about herself. Allow her to continue and just change what you do with the communications.

If the information is harmful to someone, obviously you should correct the information and protect the group from malicious information (even if she is not malicious, the information itself could be). But if it is just incorrect, let it go.

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