Doug Rutherford

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Sources and the internet

September 2015
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One of my peeves with the internet is that it allows everyone to be a publisher. This means that the option to put information in front of a large audience, without the potential of having someone responsible for the reputation of that publisher ensuring the veracity of content.  Newspapers and magazines have editors, broadcast news organizations have producers, and their key role is to ensure the reputation, and as a sidebar, legally protect the organization from potential issues based upon the content they produce.

This is not the case with the internet. The content available across the internet is rife with misleading or deliberately false information.

I have seen increasingly frequent social media posts, particularly during this election, relating to political party policy done without any attempt to verify the information or its source.  Fact checking of the information indicates many of these are reposts of information falsified by either the source or the poster. And people don’t seem to want to put the effort into checking out the story, particularly where the posting supports the policy or the message your party wants to present.

The main thing to ask yourself when you see a politically-related social media posting is this. Does the story come from an accredited media source? If not, it probably isn’t true. Here’s this story that’s obviously major news, yet doesn’t appear in a major news media site. No reporter is going to turn down a major story, so this is a really good indication that the source is false.

If nothing else, you can save yourself some embarrassment by checking where you get your information for the social media posts you share. There is a broad range of postings from white supremacist groups going around the internet recently, and some of the people who have shared these would probably be surprised to discover the agenda of many of the sources for their shared posts.

For example, I recently messaged someone I know who is affiliated with a political party to suggest pulling a social media post. The source was a link from a website. The source in question is a white supremacist site, whose web master has posted such wonderful diatribes as a recent one on how Adolph Hitler was “misunderstood.” Incidentally, this posting has not been deleted after several days, even after the poster acknowledged receiving my message about his source.

Granted, if you need a neo-Nazi propaganda site to support the message of your political party, you may want to take a long time to reconsider what you actually support. But, that is a different topic all together…


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