Researchers have found that members of local Facebook groups have been exposed to hundreds of fake posts, including false reports of missing children or deadly snakes on the loose, a new study has shown.

The UK fact-checking charity Full Fact discovered over 1,200 false posts on the social media site’s community groups around the world, and warned that these were likely just the “tip of the iceberg”, reports The Guardian.

According to the researchers, these deceptive posts, intended to plant fear in communities, can inundate users with false information, potentially overshadowing genuine alerts and appeals.

The researchers speculated that the motivation for spreading this content could be financial gain or the promotion of products/services.

Although this misinformation was prevalent in the UK, similar posts were discovered in the US and Australia.

Moreover, the researchers found that much of the shared content was about missing children and pensioners. As per other reports, serial killers and men armed with knives were stalking the streets.

The investigation exposed multiple posts claiming that a man armed with a knife was attacking people in multiple cities.

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“The hoaxers have clearly identified the massive reach these posts can have and local Facebook groups across the world are now becoming overwhelmed with false information,” said Steve Nowottny, the editor of Full Fact.

“Genuine warnings about dangers and genuine posts from people desperately appealing for help, such as those looking for missing loved ones or missing pets, are now at a much higher risk of being ignored,” he added.

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According to the experts, Facebook users who click on links in edited hoax posts are frequently taken to the real website of a legitimate company or organization, but they do so via an unconnected third-party website and an
affiliate link, which earns a small fee.

“We’ve built the largest global fact-checking network of any platform, partnering with more than 90 independent fact-checking organizations, including Full Fact, to tackle misinformation online,” a Meta spokesperson was quoted as saying.

“Fraudulent activity is not allowed on our platforms and we removed the posts Full Fact brought to our attention for violating our Community Standards. While no enforcement is perfect, we continue to invest in new technologies to stop scams and the people behind them,” it added.