Editorial: Halloween’s scariest threats? Not razor blades or ‘rainbow’ fentanyl, but rumors and lies, including the most dangerous one of all
Editor’s note: This is part of a series of blog posts on the dangerous threat of Internet rumors. The information contained in this post comes from a confidential memorandum issued to law enforcement officials.
(CNN) — A rumor has emerged that “the FBI and DEA have a special new drug that is 10 times more powerful than heroin. It’s called Fentanyl, and it’s killing people worldwide.”
This is the most recent example of the Internet rumor mill and the most dangerous rumor of all.
The Internet rumor mill is a place where a rumor is born, grows into a viral hit, and takes on a life of its own.
That is exactly what happened when an Internet rumor got off the ground on Facebook last April concerning the existence of a “cure” for cancer.
The rumor took off like wildfire on Facebook with thousands of postings from people who said they had cancer and they were now cured and they had pictures of themselves with white and pink pills.
In one case, a Facebook user posted that he was cured of cancer and, in fact, had pictures of himself with pills from his doctor in a white tube.
But Facebook quickly kicked the rumor into overdrive.
In an article published online, CNN found examples of people who had gone from having no friends and were not talking to anyone to having hundreds of thousands of friends on social media after the rumor of Fentanyl went viral.
Another rumor took root around the same time about Ebola spreading in the U.S. and killing 500 people.
By May, the death toll from the rumor and the real Ebola was close to a thousand people.
As with both of the Internet rumors, people were looking for the cure for cancer and Ebola.
They were looking for something to take the edge off the cancer and the panic over Ebola.
A rumor could be a disease or the cause of death, the cure for an illness and the spread