Some time back (and I hate to be non-specific, but I really don’t remember) someone forwarded me a link to a news story detailed a senate hearing where Oliver North – during the Iran Contra investigation – told an incredulous Senator Al Gore that Osama Bin Laden was the most dangerous man in the world. Given that the Iran Contra hearings took place in 1987, North looked to be amazingly prescient. And in the forwarded story, Gore supposedly laughed it off, looking pretty stupid I retrospect.
Of course, however, the only stupid person in that scenario was me. The story was false, but before I was aware of that, I forwarded it to a group of friends. One of them was kind of enough not to reply all when he sent me the Snopes link explaining that the link was false. It had simply not happened. I made it a point from that day no not to forward stories or links that I wasn’t able to verify.
But not everyone is quite as circumspect as that. Earlier this month Facebook founder discussed efforts Facebook planned to undertake to combat the spread of fake news. It is apparently a big enough problem to get the CEO’s attention. And it should. The impact of lies going viral really can’t be overstated.
The immediate impact is a lot of misinformed people who may very well vote based on the bad information they read online. The longer term effect is wide spread cynicism – a sense that we can’t believe what we read. And the fact that some politicians have seen fit to blame a “dishonest media” exacerbates the problem.
So as a service, I provide two links. The first offers some tips on how to fight the fake news phenomenon. The other is a list of fake sites by URL. Please take a look and join the fight. And if you get some BS forwarded to you, be as considerate as my friend was back in the day and set the sender straight.