Well it must be true right…?
Wrong! Just because you saw something on social media or some other place on the World Wide Web it doesn’t make it true. I’m sad that I even have to say it.
Hell, I could start a cult that worships marmalade or, I don’t know, say that my cat is the reincarnation of St Francis of Assisi. These claims, while obviously absurd and ridiculous, would, I’m sure, given long enough on the internet, gain some traction and perhaps some followers.
Reading it online doesn’t make it fact. In this time of ever-increasing easy access to the internet, social media and in also protecting individual free speech, we must be smarter and more aware of digital misinformation… and outright, overt and flagrant lies. I’m sure if I asked how many people had heard such classics as the lies below, I am sure most of you would have come across at least one of them.
- Hitler is still alive
- Paul McCartney died and was replaced by a double
- The earth is flat
- Vaccines contain RFID chips, or cause Autism
- The members of the royal family are all shape-shifting lizards
- Denver airport is home to the illuminati
It’s so easy to click “share” on a story that a friend has shared with you, without properly checking it, maybe you didn’t realise it was misinformation. I get that in these days of busy lives we don’t have time to visit sites like Hoax Slayer, or Snopes to fact-check everything yourself. But if you can’t fact check it, then please think twice about sharing it unless you are absolutely sure it’s true.
The reason I’m talking about this is that I was contacted by an old work colleague hiding behind a fake social media account. They had been talking privately to someone who I thought was my friend and who has recently been expressing views that align with the beliefs of the far right QAnon conspiracy theories. I won’t name them here, as I’m not prepared to give them the time of day.
I was very disappointed to be sent screenshots of the conversation between them, and to see this so-called friend of mine agreeing with some disgusting views, that as a freemason, I am part of a network of child abusers. This was highly offensive to me, as I’ve spent many years online fighting and highlighting these despicable sick fuckers. So to now suggest that I’m one of them is awful, libellous and offensive to my very core.
I’m a member of the largest charitable fraternity in the world. I am a proud freemason. I’m sure that you now have a view of me based on that statement.
Why? Maybe you’ve based that impression on something you’ve read online, maybe you know a freemason. There are over 200,000 of us in the UK, so chances are you work, socialise or have a family member that’s a freemason.
So before you go sharing wild conspiracy type theories, I’d like to ask you to stop for a minute and think to yourself: “What’s the source of the story? Do they have a slant or an agenda, are they reputable?” Not only does it protect you from looking foolish if someone fact checks the article and it’s proven to be fake, but it’s also a small step towards halting disinformation or downright propaganda.
Stay Safe X
Its notable flaws notwithstanding, social media has enabled far greater non-gate-keeping information freedom — particularly in regards to corporate environmental degradation — than that by what had been a news-monopoly mainstream news-media, including those of print.
The mainstream news-media have lost both information control (e.g. story parameterization) and, perhaps most problematic for them, advertisement revenue to popular social media platforms.
Though I don’t know his opinion of social media overall, renowned American author and linguistic/cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky noted that while there are stories published about man-made global warming, “It’s as if … there’s a kind of a tunnel vision — the science reporters are occasionally saying ‘look, this is a catastrophe,’ but then the regular [non-environmental pro-fossil fuel] coverage simply disregards it.”
Although it’s a couple decades late, I believe that progressive movements are far more effective with the unprecedented informative and organizational abilities made widely available by social media.
I also noticed that many news outlets that criticize social media will still use Facebook as the sole means by which readers can comment on posted articles.
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