Hoax-Busting: Managing Gossip and Rumors Online

We've all seen our share of Internet hoaxes. The random e-mail calling for a boycott of a major oil company; the forwarded message of a worried mother whose daughter was sickened by a popular food; or the blog post claiming a trendy fashion store is linked to terrorist activities.

Unfortunately, journalistic integrity does not always apply to the social media world. The Web provides an unfiltered platform for any disenfranchised consumer to anonymously damage reputations with the click of a button. While Web hoaxes and rumors may seem like minor nuisances, they should not be dismissed, as they have the potential to erode reputations and create a businesswide dilemma.

What should organizations do if they are the victims of an e-mail hoax? The strategies below can help effectively counter false accusations online.

*Upfront Research: When facing an online hoax, first conduct an external and internal audit to identify how prevalent the discussion is among various stakeholders. These initial audits are critical because they help determine if the rumor is gaining or losing momentum, which enables you to decide how to allocate the resources to fight it.

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