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Why You Should be Careful what You Believe on Facebook

After learning that information from a commenter who insisted that he had indisputable evidence of a widespread problem with a new vehicle, I am reminded why I am so hesitant to believe what people post on Facebook – and why others should be just as hesitant to quickly accept information from average people online.


In my time working as an automotive journalist, I have been fortunate enough to build relationships with a great many folks in the industry. Across the various automotive brands, I have “insiders” at every key level of the industry – from consumers and dealerships to the manufacturers and their suppliers. In some cases, these insiders provide me with information that the automaker will not officially state and from that information, I am able to put together articles that you won’t find elsewhere. In other cases, these folks provide me with information which doesn’t lead to a great scoop, but instead, this insider knowledge often allows me to debunk bad information.

In this case, I tapped insiders at every level with the hopes of uncovering what would have been a massive story in the auto industry, only to find out that the initial information was all nonsense.

The Guy Who Knows a Guy
It is not uncommon for me to post one of my articles somewhere online only to have some random person speak up and insist that he or she has their own information which either supports or refutes my report. They often insist that they know a guy who knows a guy, and one of those guys told another guy a bit of spicy information, so the person posting is going to post about it all over the internet – even though the person posting doesn’t have any real first-hand knowledge of the situation.

This happened last week, when I posted one of my articles about a safety investigation, only to have some random reader begin posting about how my report was incomplete. This guy went on to insist that he knows a guy who offered up all of this additional information and based on what he claimed to know – my report was incomplete and incorrect. The guy went so far as to call me “uninformed” because I questioned his information and his sources, but he knew for sure that a popular vehicle was having a widespread mechanical issue.

(Note: Because the information posted by this individual has proven to be completely wrong, I am not going to repost what he said, simply because I am not interested in giving his bad information any attention with my readers. Since the technical information has been proven to have no merit, I will not include the vehicles allegedly involved in this guy's claims.)

Well, unlike most internet know-it-alls, this guy actually posted the name of his sources. Turns out that this guy claims to know members of the management from his local dealership, and those high ranking dealership officials had supposedly told him that scores of vehicles coming in had major mechanical issues that the dealership was forced to fix before they could be sold – in addition to fixing vehicles that had already been sold. This guy posted names of people from several dealerships, numbers that he had been quoted and a full complement of details on the alleged issue.(More on Page 2)

In seeing these allegations and sensing that this could be a major story, I quickly reached out to my insiders at every level. I contacted people in the dealership world, friends who work for automotive suppliers and some folks at the corporate level. I even managed to chase down a few owners of the vehicles in question, since this problem was supposedly so widespread that it would eventually impact every owner. While I was doing my research, this individual continued to post his information with elaborate details, which began to draw in some of the other people commenting on my post. Some of the other readers began posting how perhaps what the know-it-all was saying could be some sort of regional issue, but in short, they began to believe the guy’s information – even if only a little. Even though many of them questioned his information, the way that he was presenting his information as being 100% true led some of the others in the discussion to buy into his claims.

The Truth Comes Out
Well, my dealership insiders were the first to respond back, explaining that while they had seen a great many of the vehicles in question sold at work – none of them had heard of this problem. None of my contacts in parts or service had heard of this issue, and I checked with dealership folks in different regions around the country, including other dealerships in the same area as the guy claiming to have this information.

Next, my insiders from the supplier side of things got back to me and they hadn’t heard of any such issue either. So, this alleged problem affected every one of these cars at two dealerships – but no other dealerships or related suppliers around the country had heard of the issue.

The two owners with whom I spoke also hadn’t run into any problems with their cars.

Finally, I heard back from the automaker in question, after more than a week of exchanging emails with all of the details. Turns out that one of my contacts from the automaker had spoken with one of the dealership management team members who supposedly made these comments to the person posting on my Facebook discussion. Turns out, the guy who was allegedly the initial source of this information was quick to tell the automaker that he had never made any such claim as to the problems with these vehicles.(More on Page 3)

In the end, this guy claimed to have inside information of his own and he went so far as to post figures on the number of vehicles repaired along with the name of his source. My dealership parts and service contacts were able to debunk the alleged widespread problem with these cars and the original source was quick to distance himself from the guy making these claims – insisting that he made no such comments about mechanical problems with the cars in question.

So, after this commenter had been so insistent that he had this great information which no one else had – it was proven to be false on every level. Other dealerships haven’t seen similar issues, suppliers haven’t seen an increase in demand for the parts needed to fix the alleged issues and the original source denied any involvement with the information.

This serves as an excellent example of why anything posted as a comment on Facebook or on internet forums should be taken with a grain of salt, as even when the know-it-all has what seems to be detailed information – it can all turn out to be a story created to get some attention.

I know that some of the people involved with debunking this bad information are reading this, so I will end with a special thanks to all of those folks across the industry out there who go to great lengths to provide me with such great, reliable information.