Stop! Wait a Minute! Should Ya Really Repost That?
Thoughts on the various ethical concerns regarding the spread of misinformation & disinformation in an online world
Covid-19 has led to many of us becoming Screen-Fatigued, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we haven’t been spending any less time online. What it does mean is that because the world has never relied more on internet technologies it is vital for us all to be aware of that f word — Fake News. There are many ethical concerns associated with misinformation or disinformation online and because we are at this point in our lives when internet technologies have become essential for daily lives (for both students and adults), it is imperative that we take the time to learn strategies to help us recognize and prevent us from unconsciously helping the spread of fake news.
Misinformation doesn’t just spread via audio, pictures and gifs can get the job done just as well and perhaps even faster. The following is an example of disinformation spreading of an image that was spread via social media:
This tweet, which was tweeted in September of 2018, shows
“a graphic that was found by readers on right-wing Facebook pages. The graphic claimed that Christine Blasey Ford, one of Mr. Kavanaugh’s accusers, had been photographed with George Soros, the liberal philanthropist and frequent target of right-wing conspiracy theories. The photograph, shared tens of thousands of times on Facebook, was actually of Mr. Soros posing with Lyudmyla Kozlovska, a Ukrainian human rights activist” (Roose, 2018).
Politics is a huge source and motive for people to spread disinformation. But political gains aren’t the only reason why and how misinformation and disinformation get spread…
John Oliver hosts one of my favorite late night talk shows called Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. One of the reasons that so many people are drawn to his show is because he uses satire to appeal to his audience. He is constantly making fun of himself and others but is able to pull himself together and actually does a great job of informing people on a variety of topics. However, because of his constant use of satire, it can be easy to see the infographics and altered images that he presents during his show as ACTUAL facts or REAL pictures/information.
Since misinformation and disinformation can be spread about literally any topic, it’s even more important to find and use tools to combat the spread. I recently discovered by reading Michael Caulfields’ Hapgood blog article this amazing acronym: SIFT
Caulfield’s acronym stands for:
Investigate the source
Find better coverage
Trace claims, quotes and media to the original source
When it comes down to it, I think that misinformation is often spread because we are so used to processing information so fast that we don’t necessarily take into account how fast we are processing said information. Many of us (myself included) are guilty of reposting an article or someone’s tweet before they take the time to fact check. Humans are naturally reactive, but it’s becoming more and more necessary for us to actually take the steps to prevent the spread of misinformation. That’s one of the reasons I like the SIFT acronym so much; it’s short, sweet, and easy to understand and memorize.
So the next time you’re scrolling through your Twitter feed or find yourself going down a rabbit hole on Facebook, take a minute to SIFT before you repost. Your digital footprint is bigger than you might think, and your actions do have consequences…. Even if you don’t really know what those consequences are. Afterall, as digital citizens we are all connected and work together like one large ferris wheel so it’s important to stop and wait a minute before you post. SIFT it till you feel comfortable enough to post it!