If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you will recognize that I provide primary sources for any facts that are not developed directly by me. And, you will recall I have discussed “fake” news on at least two occasions.
And, yet, there are those (especially those in politics) that desire to distort the news. To convince you of their point of view- regardless of its true merits. (Surely you can recall the recent Shirley Sherrod scandal [love that alliteration and homonymical phrase]!) What can we do to stop this?
We already know the velocity of rumor. It has been hypervelocitized by the power of the internet. You take 100 folks spreading falsities on the internet- whether it is about supposed defective products (Don’t give this vaccine to your kids- it will make them autistic!) or corruption (Shirley Sherrod refuses to help White farmers!), the netizens read the posts and spread them via geometrical amplification. (It’s worse than an epidemic). The internet is a haven for these crime- plenty of opportunity and no police.
Should we do what China does? China (yes, like most totalitarian regimes, it attempts to censor the internet, but it also), has a “State Council Information Office”. It examines information on the internet. It has found that companies are paying people to flood message boards and post blogs with defamatory information about their competitors. (Could you imagine what could have happened if there were an internet when CREEP was around?) The goal of these endeavors is to cause the some 420 million folks in China with access to the internet to believe things that are not true. Last year, Mengniu (equivalent to– or maybe larger than- our Dean Foods [also not without its own scandals]) hired a marketing company to spread a rumor about its competitor, Yili. The “news” stated that if one bought Yili’s milk, your children would attain puberty way too early. Even after the perpetrators were found, arrested, and stopped- the issue persisted. Why? Because the mis-information was now being passed along by others, who had been goaded to action by the false information, and were warning others (incorrectly) about the purported dangers (or might have had their own agendas to support. SZ- are you listening?). As a matter of fact, this past week, China arrested one rumor-monger who was scaring the populace about the “nuclear fallout” over China due to the Fukushima disasters (so he could sell his remedies).
(Please note that I am NOT naïve. I know that there are plenty of nefarious reasons for which the China State Council Information Office exists. This concept is probably its only “real” purpose. It has many other “false” purposes- specifically to shut down dissent before others learn of the facts. Hmm. Certainly sounds like certain “non-profit” political groups here, does it not?)
I personally don’t want a government agency determining what is acceptable on the internet. In my ideal world, there would be easily accessible courts to prosecute those who deliberately misstate facts. A fine of $ 5 for each occurrence- such as each eMail that is sent from their computers, would be a very expensive deterrent.
But, given that “Erehwon” does not exist, my simple answer is that each of us has to become truth squads.Don’t pass along information that you have not vetted. I receive some 50 to 100 pieces of “news” each and every day that seem to be part of some unauthorized mail chain. All demanding that I be convinced of something or another. All (or most of them) are full of crap. The trick- use your eMail to click to respond to ALL (and, yes, there are multitudes on those lists) that the information is incorrect- and forward that information to no one else- unless you provide the refutation, as well.