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Some people actually thought this 2007 photo of Britney was Emma Gonzalez

Social media is increasingly feeding a never-ending cycle of fake news – with serious ramifications

Twitter has been denounced by Amnesty recently for failing to protect its female users from online abuse, and now it's receiving fresh criticism for acting as a conduit for the circulation of harmful fake news. Trolls, trouble-makers, and the sadly misinformed all regularly (mis)use Twitter and Facebook as ways of spreading virulent speculations and prejudices disguised as news.

In the most recent case, the famous image of a shaven-headed Britney Spears attacking a car with an umbrella in 2007 has been reappropriated by a gun-toting Facebook user who captioned it, ‘Emma Gonzalez attacking a 2nd Amendment supporter’s truck at the March for Our Lives Rally’. 

This is just the latest endeavor to assassinate the character of the teen gun control advocate, after trolls also recently photoshopped a picture of her to make it appear that she was tearing up the constitution. It's a thinly veiled campaign to undermine the integrity of the March for Our Lives movement, and silence the voices of the brave teenagers standing up to pro-gun organisations.

Not only can fabrications like these can so easily go viral and become lodged in the public consciousness, they can confuse and obscure the actual truth and cause dangerous repercussions in the real world. As we witnessed in the immediate wake of Tuesday’s YouTube shooting, only moments after news of the situation broke, Twitter was awash with a hoaxers and trolls sharing unconfirmed images of potential victims and speculations about the shooter.

As reported by Buzzfeed, 4Chan hoaxers were claiming the attacker was a comedian named Sam Hyde, while other Twitter users speculated that shooting was motivated by YouTube’s policies regarding the consoring of sensitive political content or that it was a religiously motivated attack. At best these tweets are unhelpful and distasteful; at worst, they can be dangerous.

Read our interview with nine US teenagers on why they've joined the fight for gun control