MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - This past month, several false stories targeting the Myrtle Beach area have been spreading on social media.
The most recent post claims a rape victim from Conway is charged after violently attacking the man responsible. WMBF News looked into this story and found it was not accurate.
Horry County Police spokesperson Mikayla Moskov says posting fake news articles or things that aren’t true is only illegal if it’s damaging to someone else.
"If someone’s posting fake news articles or things that are not true in any way, that technically is not illegal. You have freedom of speech you can say what you want,” Moskov explained. “If someone were to come forward and show a specific article saying that this article somehow damaged their life or livelihood in some way, then they may be able to pursue criminal charges.”
Experts say there could be several motives for spreading false information online.
"One is that they're just looking for notoriety,” said HGTC Cyber Security Professor Stanton Greenawalt. “Maybe they want to increase their accounts on Twitter or Facebook."
"There are people who want to cause chaos in general,” said CCU Assistant Director for Digital Media, Brent Reser. “There’s no real rhyme or reason they want to take advantage of people and spread false information.”
Greenawalt explained people could also be posting a sensationalized or false story to try to steal your information. He says this happens more frequently during the holidays.
"Most of us take vacations we have time at home and children so I would be very careful of stories that pop up that are not true but they’re trying to get you involved in some time of nefarious action,” he said.
One way to fact check a story is checking the domain or URL. Greenawalt says some websites will slightly alter their name to look similar to a credible news site.
"Let’s say we take your website, and instead of using WMBFNews.com, they use .co, I would be very suspicious of that,” he explains.
“Social media channels themselves, they’re trying to do what they can to stop it but they can really only do so much. It does leave us with the responsibility to do our own checks to make sure whether it’s authentic or not,” said Reser.