Saturday, November 3, 2012

YOU'VE GOT RUMOR MAIL!


New Message!

The alert draws you in to read the subject line. Often politically biased, the quick headline draws on your indignation and human reaction to perceived injustices by those in power or those we suspect for abuse of trust.


As you read, you feel your blood pressure spike, and your disgust overwhelms you as you ‘see’ that the people in power or those who are supposed to be responsible to the public (be it corporations, media, reporters or leaders) are putting the general public in some sort of danger or state of duress.


Angrily, you forward it to all of your friends, you take it to heart, you discuss it with your family, friends, cohorts and take it as fact and proof that you have every right to have your prejudices and frustrations.

But do you look further?

Do you stop to fact check? Not only with ‘fact checking’ or ‘debunking’ sites, but do you use the tools you have readily available to you to verify that what you read is indeed true? Or is a forwarded email more valid in truth than the information that is sought out through the media that you no longer trust?

How many times do we receive emails requesting information for our bank account information, or spam email with stories of elderly people in need of financial assistance, or (more recently) that government agents are investigating a package found at customs -- which was addressed to you (you just have to verify by responding with personal identifiers to clear yourself)? Do we take these as fact or do we do a bit more digging?

What we have here, is a case of modern day propaganda, propelled and intensified by the power and speed of instant Internet message delivery. Spiders and bots, phishers and cookies all track our comings and goings, sometimes finding our email addresses on public records or through click and hacks. But the email fervor that plagues our inboxes today rivals many of the propaganda campaigns employed by enemies abroad in years before the Internet. With a quick typing of an emotionally laced message and the tossing in of just enough fact and real names, any person can begin a smear campaign or fear mongering mass email sweep – sometimes from ghost email accounts, hacked inboxes, or official sounding email addresses. Easily done, and spread quickly, few will take the time to fact check before forwarding them on. Even some of our representatives in government have fallen prey to these tactics, forwarding information to constituents before seeking to ensure that the information they are sending is indeed fact.

It is important to verify the information we receive from more than one source, and investigate the tings that are important to us. We can look to articles, research, quotes and other primary sources, not just our inboxes. While there are times that news media get it wrong, we have to remember that television journalism is not the same as print media. The fact of the matter is, people may not trust the media, but print journalists will have more of an investigative nature and will seek to fact check more than a person who fires off an email. They will also seek sources and seek to provide verifiable and accountable information. When seeking the truth to a story, a journalist is held to the standard that one's job and integrity as a journalist rides upon his or her ability to provide information that is verifiable and true.

I digress. My point is that we should be verifying what we are reading, forwarding and repeating.

There are sites that are geared to providing fact and information (along with links to reference).  They are not to be taken as the end-all source, but they do provide springboards from which a person can access the sources that lead to the truth.

Maybe we could all do our part to researching the emotionally laced emails that we receive before forwarding them on.

After all, it’s gossip and rumor in print and well worth our while as an educated and intelligent people to verify that we are sharing information that is fact and not something we heard, upset us, and we repeat… all the while possibly eroding or own credibility and communications when we choose not to make sure that we are repeating truth instead of speculation and rumor.

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