Fact Checking: Something We All Need To Do More Often.

How often do you “Forward” or “Re-Post” something you see on line without checking to make sure the information is valid?  While we live in a country where “Free Speech” is protected by the Constitution, it also means that misinformation can spread at an exponential rate because there are no real checks to control it. I often wonder what the founding fathers would think of this country and what has become accepted practice by citizens, corporations, lawyers and politicians in the name of “Free Speech.”

I became interested in computers in the mid 60’s and took a course in “Data Processing” which included IBM keypunch, Sorter, 402 Accounting Machine and “Autocoder” programming language for the 1401 computer. (I know, that puts me squarely in the “OLD F@%T” category.) Due to some other things that were going on in my life at the time, I never pursued that field but did pickup computers again in the mid 80’s when PC’s were introduced. By the late 80’s I was logging into bulletin boards on automotive topics. (Precursors to todays forums for you “Kids” who haven’t heard of them.)

With the arrival of “Social Media,” the ability to spread misinformation either intentionally or unintentionally increased significantly.  It was no longer a 1 to 1 interaction but the ability for one person to post something to hundreds or even thousands and for those people to do the same.  In the short span of 24 to 48 hours, information with absolutely no basis in fact could be spread around the world. 

In the mid to late 90’s I found Snopes.com, began checking information that I received on line and was amazed how much of it was either partially or totally false.  I would then post the link on Snopes back to the sender to let them know their information was incorrect.  I like to think that they started checking some facts before re-posting something and that is why I started to see less of this type of mail arriving in my inbox.  (Hey, it’s a nice thought anyway.)

Below are several links to resources for verifying information. Keep in mind that different types of information require different sources to verify. If you normally re-post or post links to on-line material, please make an effort to verify the information before you post it. 

www.snopes.com  This link takes you to the home page of the site. To get a little history of the site select the “About” page. On the About Page are additional links about the site but make sure to check the “Fact Check Ratings” to understand the various ratings.

Who Is Hosting This is a site with a good article on verifying sources.

https://www.intego.com/mac-security-blog/how-to-tell-if-an-online-article-is-real-fake-or-a-scam/ is another article on verifying sources.  While written for Mac Users, the information is applicable to anyone using a computer who wishes to verify information.

https://www.library.georgetown.edu/tutorials/research-guides/evaluating-internet-content is an article from Georgetown University on evaluating internet content.

Rather than continue to post links, do your own searches to find sources. I did a Google search on “verify information posted online”, “% of information posted on the internet that is false”, and “Fact Check” which will give you plenty of articles and sources for validating information. When you do a Google search, a box drops down giving you additional options and you get even more options at the bottom of the page you search. Whatever you do, don’t be like the girl in the old State Farm ad that says “I read it on the internet. They can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true.”

Trust, but verify. – Look it up on Wikipedia. You may find its source, ironic.

NOTE: I posted this article in the Uncategorized and Industry Related Categories. Uncategorized because it really applies to everyone who forwards or re-posts information found on the internet but also Industry Related because I see a huge amount of misinformation (or misleading) information posted by oil companies in their ads, by sites posting reviews of “The Best” of whatever they are writing about, and by individual “Experts” in their YouTube posts. If all of these companies, sites and individuals were held to a standard that required them to actually prove what they are claiming, posting on the internet would be a lot more informative.

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