This just in, breaking fake news!

For Week 1, I’m also going to be reflecting on the concept of disinformation & crap detection.

The internet is a beautiful place… a beautifully dangerous place, that is.

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Just like the fictional world of Avatar, the Internet is a land filled with beautiful creatures and people that want to destroy them. Tons of information lives within the internet through big news websites, personal blogs, and online forums. A quick google search reveals that the internet has at least 1200 petabytes of data on it. For reference, your phone probably has between 32 gigabytes to 128 gigabytes of disk space for photos and other things you keep on it. 1000 gigabytes equate to 1 terabyte, and 1000 terabytes equate to 1 petabyte. That’s an absurd amount of data.

With all of this data, it’s important to remember that not all of it is true. But people on the internet would never lie! Of course not, my dear reader… of course not. Just as slander and libel are two very real things in the physical world, misinformation exists just as prominently in the virtual world.

Some would say that misinformation is even more common on the internet than in real life. I’m not one to disagree with that statement; it’s flat-out easier to say something about someone on the internet anonymously. It’s one of the dangers of social media: cliques and circles can form instantly and become a wrecking ball that never stops swinging. At least back when computers weren’t as integral to life as they are now, it took real actual time for word to spread across friends about news that had broke. At the same time, this exact danger is also a great benefit for those who utilize it. People who want to ruin the reputation of a certain target can do it with stunning ease. A more honest person could utilize that as a ‘counter-attack’ of sorts, producing truthful information just as fast as the misinformation spreads.

Either way, misinformation is a big deal. There exists a frighteningly large population of the internet that come to real tangible conclusions based on information that is not true. I want to believe that this population consists of technologically-illiterate people who don’t know better, because after all we all learned in school to get your facts straight before doing anything with them. If it turns out that my assumption is correct, then it’s important to see the distinction between physical and virtual information.

In the real world, information comes across through quite a few forms of media: radio, newspaper, local businesses, etc. In a small town, even the reputation of the person sending this information comes into play as to the validity of it. Point being, information in the physical world is scrutinized just a little bit more than info in the virtual world. Let’s not forget that it’s not impossible to lie to someone’s face in real life… it’s just a lot harder than lying to their username.

But what about social media? It’s the same thing… the internet does not discriminate. In every corner of it, you’ll find the opportunity to deliver some grade-A misinformation if you feel so inclined. After all, the internet is filled with anonymous personalities hiding behind the mask of an avatar.

This post was originally published here and includes additional media content.