The Plague of Fake News
Facebook can be a wealth of information when the information is accurate. I remember my college professor in my Honors English II class telling us almost daily about reliable sources. Even today I can remember most of the criteria needed to determine if the information is coming from a reliable source. Granted, this was a college class and not everyone has had a college level English class, some of it is just common sense. Some people do not have common sense either, but that is a whole new blog entirely. Figuring out if the information is relevant and true only requires a simple task, do your homework!
Determining the validity of the information is simple. Google is your best friend when it comes to doing your homework. It also takes a little common sense that can go a long way when it comes to figuring out if you should believe what you are reading. There are also a number of websites that offer information on sources, rating them on reliability. Ask yourself is the source recent, is it written by an expert in the subject matter, is it biased, meaning, does the writer have a stake in the subject matter or are they trying to promote their personal ideas or agenda? In other words, if you are researching local news, is the source from that locality and is it an unbiased general news website. For example, a shooting occurs in Cleveland, Ohio. If you are researching the facts you want to consult two or three Cleveland news websites, not an anti-gun website based in California. The most common issues I see are with religious issues that only cite religious websites to provide information for their argument.
Unfortunately, those who proclaim themselves as “experts” on Facebook and have large followings are some of the biggest offenders when it comes to spreading fake news. One huge offender that I follow is Tina Griffin, Counterculture Mom. She has a following of just over 3,500 people, most of which who are devout Christians that think anything or anyone non-Christian is an abomination. She claims to be a “Hollywood insider” yet continues to spread propaganda about Satanism and the Illuminati. She also has a bad habit of sharing old news from biased sources which make all her followers’ foam at the mouth waiting to pounce on the next non-believer. From her hatred of The Satanic Temple to state abortion laws, she single-handedly finds a way to make everything shine a light on her as the hero. Taking just a few minutes to look at her sources and Google some information typically locates more recent and less biased information and she is typically as wrong as a pantsuit on a cat.
Religion is one of the subjects I seem to find the fakest news being spread about. Christians follow their sources, like CBN and other Christian news outlets like they are the gospel themselves. Satanists fall into this rut at times but in most cases, as we are more apt to find additional information about everything, we will Google a few more sources before we put the truth stamp on anything posted on Facebook. I also find the typical citizen takes Facebook posts at face value as well, only those with common sense to know that something just does not sound right, will do their homework and find out if what has been posted it worth agreeing with or debating. Unfortunately, I think much of the time it is going to be something that requires debate.
Facebook debate groups are another place where fake news is cited entirely too much. For example, I admin a Christian versus Atheist group where fake news is all the rage. (Yes, they know I am a Satanist and an atheist, I heard the gasps from here.) Many debates involve scientific information that is cited from very unreliable sources. When it comes to medicine or science, journals are always the best sources of reliable information. Pointing this out typically leads to an additional argument unrelated to the debate topic at hand. Journals are the most reliable when it comes to medicine and science because many are peer-reviewed, meaning that several experts in the field agree that the information is sound and correct. These however can be hard to locate in regular Google searches, so something like Google Scholar, which many people are unaware of, are a good place to look. As far as sources for religion, finding sources that are not biased are difficult, but they can be found and are more accurate with their information. Again, it all comes down to common sense and taking a few extra minutes to do your homework.
Why is it important to do your homework? It is important because it not only educates you but helps you put a stop to the propaganda that fake news propagates and spreads. Whether they act like it or not, people like to learn, some more than others, but most appreciate a learning opportunity no matter what their age, culture or religion may be. Facebook is fake news. You can post anything you want and if you believe it is the gospel so be it, but just remember you are not only fooling others, but you are fooling yourself. There is a lot to be said for learning and with the current dumbing down of society, wouldn’t you rather be amongst the smarter members?
Special props to Edward Stokes III who is also a Do Your Homework! supporter.