Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Why people keep falling for viral hoaxes

The text inside an Instagram post detailing the hoax

Anne says: Do you remember viral hoaxes? They started out in email chain letters, telling you to do something or other like turn off a security feature or it will permanently disable everything in your computer and if you don’t pass on to all your contacts online, they’d be affected too! 

Now we have #fakenews, #deepfakes and sophisticated algorithms manipulating our ability to determine what’s real or not. In the meantime, those viral hoaxes are still around and being shared through social media. The example in this article – see the image above – is about Instagram. Apparently this viral hoax first started in 2012 on Facebook and Instagram and threatened that the social networks were changing their terms of service and going to control all your data. Outrage! Nobody wants that, so pass it on to make sure all your friends and contacts are also informed.

If you read the message, it’s full of typos, it’s clearly not real. A quick Google search will verify the hoax – but we still fall for it! In fact, last week it hooked in a number of high profile celebrities as well
But why are we still falling for these? The article looks at our behaviours and how the wording (even with typos) triggers a reaction and how the social media platforms encourage us to share quickly and simply. Whitney Phillips, a professor at Syracuse University says: 

“…we often make snap decisions based on how the information adheres with our existing worldviews.”

The act of sharing provides us with positive feedback and the feeling we’re doing something useful or important for our friends and contacts. But we all know this, right? Yes, but… we don’t take time to check, we look at who sent it to us, we trust our friends and contacts (even though we know they’re also susceptible to being duped).

What I find challenging is that even facts are not enough to stop the spreading of misinformation (think anti-vaxxers).

Phillips says. “You actually have to tell a different coherent story, so that people can have that cohesion that our brains really want.”

Of course, we don’t all have time to sit down and craft this alternative narrative. The implications on a broader scale are deeply concerning – how we manage and determine misinformation will become critical. In the meantime, I believe the best alternative strategy is: resist the urge to pass it on, and avoid adding oxygen to the fire. 


Police turn to hackers in Australia’s first crowdsourced attempt to find missing people


Joel says: The term ‘hacker’ is often associated with negative circumstances these days but a hacker is defined as ‘a skilled computer expert that uses their technical knowledge to overcome a problem’. While yes, that problem could be working out your password to gain access to your bank account or online profiles, it’s often not the case. 

Last week, more than 350 hackers, hobbyists, and tech professionals gathered at various locations throughout the country to come up with a modern-day solution for a long existing problem. Hoping to innovate on the way we currently try to locate people classified as ‘missing’. 

The goal of the hackathon was to gain new leads for 12 of Australia’s toughest cold cases using sophisticated but legal methods of trawling the internet. The event was considered quite a success with the teams generating 100 new leads every 10 minutes. The method in which the information is gained is referred to as open-source intelligence (OSINT). It’s hardly a brand new concept, but it involves crawling public sources to gain insight and information on a particular person. This information could be gathered using Google Maps, social media profiles or most commonly, a simple Google search. 

Outside of using this method to automate the locating of missing people, co-founder of WorldStack, Dan Holfman, has long used OSINT methods to find people who were missing or hiding — for example, to serve them court documents.

I love stories like this, stories about people coming together to not only help solve a problem, but doing it in a way that makes clever use of technology and could forever change the way we do something that has been done a different way for the longest time. 

If you want to check out more about the hackathon or learn more about how these companies are using OSINT to tackle the dark web, check out the full article.


Productivity and the Joy of Doing Things the Hard Way


Helen says: What do we lose in our quest for efficiency?  Last month I referenced a TED talk that argued that focusing on efficiency makes us vulnerable in an increasingly unpredictable world, and we need to be more imaginative and experimental. This article suggests that our efficient lives leave us little time for spontaneity or to just be in the moment. If we always give over to the convenience of technology “we can become disengaged, passing through moments instead of inhabiting them, so we should give ourselves permission…to pass some time that serves no obvious purpose. We should allow ourselves to be surprised, to encounter the unexpected”. Who knows what we can learn and experience by letting go, even just a little.


A Short Guide to Building Your Team’s Critical Thinking Skills


Jakkii says: According to the author of this piece, critical thinking isn’t an ‘innate’ skill, but it is something that can be learned and improved. It’s a crucial element to being able to form educated opinions and make judgements and, as such, is imperative in much knowledge work. So, how do we help our teams hone and develop their critical thinking skills? This article has some guidance on how to assess where team members are at, and how to help them reach the next phase. According to the authors, there are four phases of critical thinking:

  • Phase 1: Execute
  • Phase 2: Synthesize
  • Phase 3: Recommend
  • Phase 4: Generate

Essentially these phases are about moving from just doing what you’re told to do through to being able to ‘turn nothing into something’. The article largely rings true to me with regards to the phases the author proposes, and certainly I can see their relevance specifically to our work as consultants and as researchers. I certainly agree with the idea that we can nurture and develop our critical thinking skills. What do you think, though? What does or doesn’t resonate with you?


This Week in Social Media

Politics, democracy and regulation

Privacy and data

Cybersecurity and safety

Society and culture

Extremism and hate speech

Moderation and misinformation

Marketing, media, advertising and PR


Facebook’s Libra and Calibra

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: “death and taxes,” the future of retirement and superannuation. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

Our guest this week: Professor Susan Thorp.

The stories this week

02:46 What is super for?

20:26 How to make your coffee count for retirement

Other stories we bring up

Why a retirement savings review is necessary for the nation’s future

What a retirement savings inquiry needs to answer

Our previous conversation of the four-day work week

Our previous conversation of exponential growth

Questionable fintech superfunds

The history of retirement (including Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck)

The battle between your present and future self, Daniel Goldstein’s TED talk


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