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Internet: A Web of false information

By Terron Bolling
On February 14, 2014

The Internet and social media have helped the spread of information tremendously, but there's one major problem: the speed and quantity of info that travels across the Web creates a cluster of junk that makes it hard to distinguish what is credible information. It has also affected our ability to have actual discussions about the information.

The speed of social media and the competition among news outlets have contributed to the problem of junk information. The need for news outlets to report stories quickly can cause them to report bad or false info, as seen with Sandy Hook and the Boston bombing.

It creates a dilemma for us as media consumers, because reporting the wrong information can diminish the credibility of supposedly credible news outlets. How can we trust large news stations such as CNN, FOX, etc., when even they have trouble getting it right when we want the information most?

Social media can also pose a problem for analyzing information, often due to our own biases. Even though social media can be used to connect with people all over the world, we often interact with people who are at least somewhat like-minded. It becomes an even bigger issue when bloggers and political sites with a blatant slant are given as much credibility as your average news site.

It often creates an echo chamber of opinions, rather than creating a worthwhile discussion. Objectivity is one of the most important aspects of news, but that doesn't seem to be the case for everyone. Perhaps people's idea of objectivity has become subjective.

As students, we are affected by the information overload when it's time to do research papers. While a site like Wikipedia can be your best friend, it can also be an adversary. The age-old problem of finding research information on the Internet is that anyone can put up junk info at the drop of a hat.

As a result, research often occurs in two steps. First, find your information. Second, find information on your source. Have your source done peer-reviewed work? Are there other sources with this information? Looking for credible sources can be a research project within itself.

Even with all the readily available information we have in the year 2014, making sure the information we have is credible is still a tough task. While it is great that we don't have to slog through books or wait on the next edition of the newspaper, we have to deal with essentially every Tom, Dick and Harry being a reporter. Always make sure you know whom you're getting your information from.

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