Every day there are ethical decisions that impact the hundreds or thousands of people who watch, read, listen, and/or click on a media source. The foundation for making the right decision starts with ethics classes in college. Students in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism will use this blog to reflect on ethical questions in the media today.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Be Wary of the "Truth" on the Internet.
Just because it is on the Internet, does not mean it is
A phrase that many in the millennial generation have heard
from the parents – and perhaps even grandparents – as they grew up using the
The Internet came to be in the 1960s and has grown into
something that is used for much more than simply entertainment: primary schools
and universities are using it as part of their lectures and post assignments;
news outlets use it to communicate with their sources, share stories and
information and to do research; the average person uses it to communicate with
family and friends, post and share updates on their lives, share ideas,
research and much more.
However, with all the great things that came with the evolution
of the Internet, there are also negative things that ride in with them.
One such thing is astroturfing, defined by The Guardian as “the use of sophisticated software to drown out real people on web forums.” To
break this down, a single person can use a computer program to invent multiple
personas for himself – a single person – to use while online each persona looks
to be a real person rather than just a file created by a computer. Users can
then use these personas to rampage the Internet to populate what appear to be grassroots
campaigns that are non-funded when the truth is it could be funded by a major
corporation, an example being the Save Our Species Alliance campaign, said to be a group working towards making the Endangered Species Act more
friendlier to local conservation efforts and to try harder at saving the
at-risk species when the group funding it was against the Endangered Species Act, what with all the
logging/timber and cattle industries it had under its belt.
Perhaps Mom was right that you cannot trust who a person
says they are on the Internet.
Another example of a negative aspect that came with the
evolution of the Internet is the publication of false information. As state
previously, just because it is posted online, does not mean it can be trusted.
When a story was posted online about Josh Shaw saving his nephew from drowning was posted online, the Internet ate it up: The
Times picked up the story and social media outlets sent it around. The story
was that he had sprained both of his ankles trying to rescue the nine-year-old
nephew from drowning in the pool.
It was later revealed that the story was a hoax concocted by
the Athletic Department’s director of social media at the University of
Southern California. The player’s injuries were not caused by saving a child’s
life, but rather had happened when he jumped from the balcony after an argument with his girlfriend of more than seven years.
Needless to say, people were less than pleased to learn that
the player had lied about the story, many of them taking to social media, such
as Twitter, to voice their opinions on the situation.
There are many other cases where anything and everything
viewable on the Internet is true: social media hoaxes, child predators, false
dating profiles, even false statements on online resumes. Be sure to be aware
and research before trusting a claim posted online, because it just goes to
show that the previous generations had a decent idea on telling those younger
than them that not everything and everyone on the Internet can be trusted.