Some of us think of rumors as the idle speculation of a social gossip–just superficial trash talk, not to be taken seriously. If someone characterizes our conversation as gossip, we are offended.

Rumors are a serious and lucrative business these days. They have been weaponized and are tools for social and political manipulation. Rumors are a favorite ploy of those who manipulate because they are cheap and effective. Once seeded, they take on a life of their own, traveling with dazzling speed and persisting for months or years. They bypass most people’s skepticism because they often come from a friend or relative–a person we trust.

Frequently the seed is a photo, a video, or a fake news item that is cleverly crafted to look authentic and launched in a context that lends credibility. It’s easy to be fooled.

We can train ourselves to recognize the seeds of disinformation so that we don’t contribute to the spread. None of us wants to be dismissed as one who gossips. To learn more, check out RumorGuard.

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