Consider the following three statements: Tupac is alive and hiding out in Cuba, Barack Obama is really a member of al-Qaeda, and Kris Jenner exploits her daughter’s sex tape to make money. Thanks to the misinformation on the internet today, it may be difficult for some to discern which of these is actually true. Both the internet and social media have completely obliterated the line separating truth from lies, because we continually fail to question what we read and hear.
We all have responsibilities to be conscientious of what we share online — some more than others. If you’re Congressman John Fleming from Louisiana, for example, you have a responsibility to refrain from blindly expressing outrage by posting an article on Facebook from the satirical newspaper the Onion detailing Planned Parenthood’s $8 billion “Abortionplex.” Unsurprisingly, Congressman Fleming previously posted an editorial written by Kanye West supporting the rapper’s claim that George Bush does not care about black people. Just kidding, but hey, see how deceiving the Internet can be?
In a time when parts of the world are colluding to destroy America over an anti-Islamic video and with an extremely important election looming, it’s as crucial as ever to make sure we utilize the Internet to share facts instead of misleading one another for our own personal gains. I am reminded of the time this summer when I logged onto Facebook and saw about four different statuses expressing outrage over President Obama’s lawsuit against the state of Ohio to end early voting rights for its military service men and women.
In disbelief that the President would file such a lawsuit, I did some research and learned the litigation was really to extend the same early voting rights the military enjoyed to all residents of Ohio. Mitt Romney perpetuated this lie by vehemently declaring “President Obama’s lawsuit claiming it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state’s early voting period is an outrage. The brave men and women of our military make tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms, and we should do everything we can to protect their fundamental right to vote.” I guarantee there are hundreds, if not thousands of voters, who still mistakenly believe Romney’s false allegations. Where do we draw the line and start holding people accountable for what they share on the Internet?
The fact that the idiotic, nonsensical Birther Movement got as far as it did should be an embarrassment to us as a country and anyone who participated. Can anyone refute that this group wouldn’t have gotten so much momentum had it not been for the Internet and social media? I’m truly surprised one liberal group’s retort of accusing Romney of actually being a unicorn didn’t garner real support. Anyone can post some mindless lie for their thousands of friends to like and pass along to even more people. It’s comparable to a game of telephone played in middle school as information erroneously gets passed on from one to another, just with a lot less hormonal awkwardness and a lot more gullibility.
This column was not meant to be riddled with politics, but it’s the only way to convey the gravity of how much responsibility we have when using the Internet. Baseless lies and misinformation could easily sway thousands of voters, electing someone based on false convictions and accusations. But who knows? Perhaps this article was one big lie. Maybe, if it’s on the internet, it doesn’t have to be true.
Brandon Jacobi is a contributing columnist. Email him at email@example.com.
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