Monday, October 4, 2010

Breaking Taboo - The Misinformation Highway

One of the major disasters of the great information highway called the internet is information laziness. The other is gullibility. We see it in print and we not only swallow it, we regurgitate it and pass it on. Never stopping to consider that what we pass on as fact may actually be nothing but conjecture or outright lies. Being inundated with as much info that hits us constantly in the eyeballs, most people skim, grab and pass. Social media has taken this to a new level. 

We have to remember that we are now living in the balloon boy era, where people will lie, steal, cheat, slander and punk anyone and everyone if it will get them a viral moment of fame. Just because the news runs with a breaking story doesn’t mean its all true. A perfect example is the story I did on the Rape-Axe. If I had stopped at the first 8 or 9 stories while doing research I would have passed along the false information that the anti-rape condom is being distributed in South Africa. Only by digging deeper did I discover it was never released. The age of yellow journalism, where sensationalism is more important than veracity, has returned full force.
It’s all about the drama. 

So what does it matter if it’s true or not? After all it will be old news in 15 minutes. Welllll – guess what? Libel is alive and well, especially in our litigation happy culture. And people can be sued, for spreading false information via twitter and facebook, in addition to other communication avenues. Social media is technically considered a publishing platform, which means that publishing liabilities, copyrights, and other legalities apply.

As the man says “The world has fragmented into millions – if not billions – of tiny one-man media outlets.”

The moral? Don’t believe everything you read, online or in the news without doublechecking for the truth yourself. And definitely don’t pass it along as fact unless you are positive it is indeed fact.  It takes time and is a pain in the ass but do it or it may be your ass that is held over the fire someday.

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