The danger of misinformation

Rachel Borashko

There is nothing worse than the spread of misinformation. In the world of memes and information overload through both the internet and day-to-day life, it is easy for false information to slip through the cracks.

As a student in courses that often focus on the correct procedures for obtaining new information and creation of valid and relevant statistics, it is frustrating to see incorrect information and faulty logic spread as if it is reliable.

A meme goes viral on social media, a quote attributed to Donald Trump: “If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they’d still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific.” Donald Trump may have said a lot of ridiculous and shocking things in his time, but a simple Google search will tell you that there is no report of Donald Trump ever having said that.

This happens all the time. If something supports a person’s opinion, they typically won’t take the time to question the truth of it. The thing is, with so many of these misinformative memes roaming the internet, especially politically charged ones, there are a substantial number of fact-checking websites which report on the accuracy. All it takes is a Google search.

When it comes to the example of the aforementioned Donald Trump meme, the harm done is more than likely minimal if not completely non-existent. I doubt anyone will change their opinion of him based on that meme. However, this is not the only instance when this occurs. Too many memes and posts which portray misinformation as “fact” spread hate through misinformation.

In general, as a society, misinformation is a bad thing. It can perpetuate stereotypes, persuade people to make decisions they shouldn’t and generally make society less educated and knowledgeable.

Countless times, I have seen race-based, gender-based, or class-based memes that perpetuate the oppression of groups which are already oppressed. It goes back to the old idea that it’s “just a joke.” It might be at first glance, but when you’re making fun of people who experience significantly harder lives because of something outside of their control, that’s not funny anymore. It’s just mean.

If that’s not enough to make you want to fact check the next meme you post, remember that it also lowers your own credibility. If you spew things you read on the internet as if they’re fact, and someone else recognizes that it’s completely made up, you sound ridiculous. A person in my class last week confidently brought up the previously mentioned Trump meme as if it was fact. I was disappointed. In the class after that, the person next to me told me about a story that he heard about but then followed it up with, “But I saw that on Facebook, so I don’t know if it’s true.” At least that time there was a disclaimer added.

It is not hard to find out if information you hear is accurate. Why bother spreading the misinformation, especially if its hateful? Why bother spreading rumors because you were too lazy to type, “Is the Donald Trump meme true?” Why bother sharing “facts” that don’t even have any sort of basis in reality? Think before you post.