The internet has brought about what is often referred to as the Information Age, but what the internet often fails to do is help us discern the quality of information we are receiving. Never in history has the truth been more accessible – and yet neither has the capacity to deceive been greater.
The internet age and the integration and ease of promoting and sharing photos on facebook, mean that we are constantly being bombarded with false quotes. We saw it time and time again throughout the US Election and we are starting to see it more and more in the lead up to the Australian election.
There is a trend of racist, misogynist or bigoted quotes being attributed to political characters and because they affirm what we want to believe about them (eg Mitt Romney is a racist, Barack Obama is a Muslim and he wants to take all the guns, Julia Gillard is a backstabbing puppet, Tony Abbott is a sexist pig etc) we don’t ask any questions.
It is so easy to like and share something that we too often don’t stop to question the credibility of what we are ‘liking’.
Julia Gillard did not write a speech encouraging Muslims to leave Australia (and neither did Kevin Rudd or John Howard to whom it has previously been attributed). Christopher Pyne did not say “If 25,000 teachers have to go, then they have to go. Budget cuts will happen and Education is not immune”. The list of false quotes being shared on facebook is long and it is troubling.
I encourage you to check before you share such quotes on facebook and tumblr. If it sounds too good to be true (or too offensive to be true) it probably is. A simple Google search will tell you pretty quickly if there is any truth to the attributed quote.
And if it is bullshit: call it out. Try not to be condescending, but don’t be afraid to say the truth. You may agree with the sentiment, you may even be glad that a particular personality is receiving a bad rap, but “Misinformation has a negative value; even if you get it for free, you’ve paid too much.” Denning et al, 2005.
The media does a good enough job of turning our political leaders into caricatures and while it may well be impossible to rid social media of fakery and misinformation we can still do our bit to affect our circle of friends/followers and avoid spreading falshoods.
“The trouble with quotes on the Internet is that it’s difficult to determine whether or not they are genuine.”
- Abraham Lincoln