Could You Unintentionally Make a Lie Go Viral?

lies are viralSeven months ago, a client (Jamie of “I Am Not the Babysitter”) and I were discussing the topic of a post she was writing about the inaccuracies she recognized in media reporting. Even reputable media sources report inaccuracies in information or bend information to make it “sell”. Media outlets use “expert” sources who actually have no real background in their field or who are compromising their professional ethics by commenting on certain topics.

Hatching a Plan

About two months later, she brought the topic up again. We ranted and raved, but had no real way to attack the problem. Then, another two months later, she pointed out the rampant inaccurate infographics online. It was then that we decided we should make an inaccurate infographic and throw it out to make a point. However, I was skeptical. I knew it would get shared — “I Am Not the Babysitter’s” Facebook page is well-respected and no one would think to question it. I didn’t think anyone would notice and we’d just have to point it out and it would be lame. So, we decided we would have to make it obvious. The infographic would have to contradict itself blatantly in order to be a really good study and make a really good point.

Jamie Hijacks a Post

She waited for the right topic to come along. She wanted it to be something we thought people would really click on and read, that way we could see if they noticed the inaccurate infographic. Finally, the topic of paid maternity leave in the U.S. came up. She immediately piped up, “That’s the post for our graphic!” I fought her a little at first. I didn’t want to belittle the topic of maternity leave, and she agreed, but we ultimately decided this was the perfect opportunity to reach her international Facebook fans. We searched for information and brainstormed about how to make the infographic seem real but still be blatantly inaccurate enough to possibly have a reader catch it. When we happened upon this outdated information being linked to multiple times and misquoted, we were inspired. 3 hours, 2 phonecalls, and approximately 7 picmonkey drafts later, this was born:


This is an important topic, and you can read more about our thoughts on it here, but if you’re interested, all of these countries have some sort of unpaid maternity leave. However, currently, the United States in the only industrialized country in the world that has no mandate for paid parental leave.

The Results

When she posted the inaccurate infographic in the blog post, no one commented. I called Jamie and lamented. We were both admittedly disappointed that no one had noticed, but we had a back-up plan to post it larger as an image on Facebook the next day.  When Jamie posted the infographic on Facebook, the very first comment was someone who noticed the discrepancy.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news. The inaccurate infographic was actually shared 68 times on Facebook. Which means, it is incredibly easy for even blatantly inaccurate information to go viral. The moral of the story…FACT CHECK, PLEASE.

Do you usually check the information in an infographic before you share it?



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