Hello, readers, it’s been too long. It’s good to be back behind the keyboard again, and I’ve got a burning question for you. Now I saw this on Facebook. Did you know the Trump administration said employers can fire workers for being gay? You know what else I read? A Florida plumber found an enormous snake while investigating a clog. And I don’t know if I can help out Suzy this year with her cookie sales. Did you know the Girl Scouts donate to Planned Parenthood?
I read it on Facebook. I saw it online. Mind blowing, right?
Considering the fake-news era in which we live, what’s mind blowing is the persistence of hoaxes and various chicanery passed around the internet. Scary, too, are the justifications people offer for sharing said information:
"I only shared it for the picture."
Do you swear to share the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
I’ve seen this on Facebook myself. A friend will share a picture of a beautiful sunset or gorgeous mountain scene with a quote attributed to the wrong person, highly inflated results for taking natural remedies, or some other exaggerated or outright false information.
If you see something on Facebook you want to share but you may not agree with some part of it, I challenge you to do one of two things. The easier thing to do is simply ignore it.
People are appalled when lawmakers pass bills without reading the fine print. Yet on social media they will share without knowing the entirety of what they’re spreading.
If someone with dirty hands bakes a cake, I don’t want a bite.
"Oh that poor (child/animal/veteran/)"
Before I get into this topic, let me tell you about like-farming. For the three people reading this who are unfamiliar with the social-media platform Facebook, users can share basically any kind of information they want, either text they write or articles and pictures and video they want to share that other people created. Their friends can then "like" the post by clicking the "like" button. Facebook prioritizes popular content measured by how many likes, comments and shares posts receive.
Now, clever scammers capitalize on this by creating pages populated with eye-catching posts like sick children, injured animals and wounded veterans to name a few. People like these posts and the page that shares them accrues popularity. Then they turn around and repurpose the page for advertising or sharing dangerous material to a built-in audience.
In my research for this article, I found that Facebook is slowly cracking down on this practice, which may be why I’m seeing fewer posts from suspicious pages, but scammers are clever and usually find a way around these safeguards.
"Yeah, but that sounds like them."
I fear this type of justification the most. I’ve seen it in responses on Facebook after an article or some claim turns out to be false. The OP (the person who originally posted the item, in internet lingo) or someone who agreed with the post may tacitly acknowledge the false information but vehemently believe it resembles something the target of the article would do or say.
Surely you recognize this isn’t fair.
Would it stand up in court? "He didn’t do it, your honor, but it really sounds like something he would do, right?"
Would you accept it from a newspaper? "Trump says wall will stop all illegal immigration … well he didn’t, but you know he would."
Of course not.
We have to put the truth above what we think is true, above our prejudices. Otherwise, there’s no hope. Why? When you expect the worst of people, they might just give you that.
By the way, I didn’t say whether the three items I mentioned above were true. I expect I’ll revisit this topic again so practice your investigative skills and let me know.
Aaron Little is the editor of the Santa Rosa Press Gazette and the Crestview News Bulletin. You can reach him at email@example.com