Two semi-related stories have dominated the news over the past few days, and I’m finding myself asking why.
This weekend, we learned that Russia might have meddled in the presidential election to the benefit of Donald Trump. Ironically, the two groups waving around this revelation are the CIA (who have a rich history of interfering with foreign governments, by using propaganda at their most delicate and assassination at their most assertive) and the Democratic National Committee (who, just a few months ago, conspired to keep Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination). Now we’re expected to share in their outrage over Russia’s attempt to get their preferred candidate elected? “Hey! Only we get to rig elections!”
Meanwhile, bumfuzzled news outlets are trying to wrap their heads around the “fake news expidemic”. Exactly who is surprised to learn that there’s fake news on the internet? Worse yet is the attempt to blame this on Facebook, as if they should be expected to police their entire platform of 1.8 billion users for the sharing of fake news stories. I fully believe that Facebook has used their unprecedented reach and intimate knowledge of our lives to influence politics in frightening ways. “Fake news” is not one of them. The responsibility has to lie with those who aren’t thinking critically about the information they’re consuming.
The first place a pair of eyes should go after reading a headline on Facebook is to the URL to learn the source. If the contents of that piece of news raise any alarms whatsoever, there should be an effort to corroborate it with additional sources before any of that information is repeated or in this case, shared. Failure to do this is not Mark Zuckerberg’s fault. It’s our own. The spread of misinformation is never a good thing and at the very least, it makes the sharer look like an idiot. “Literally Unbelievable” collects examples of people who are livid over satirical articles from The Onion. It’s hilarious. You don’t want to end up featured there.
Get your news from multiple sources. Read news from sources and viewpoints you disagree with. Even our largest and most-respected media organizations have their own biases and shouldn’t be taken as gospel. We must be even more diligent when dealing with information from dubious sources.