Monday, September 26, 2011

Don't believe the internet

Having its roots in the world of academia, there was a time when, if you read something on the internet, you could be fairly sure it was at least partly true.

My, how times have changed.

These days, thanks to the fact that the hurdles to publishing articles, comments, videos and even news stories have been lowered so much, a lot of what you read is far from true. In fact, sometimes it's just a deliberate attempt to deceive.

Several good examples of this have appeared recently all related to video which purports to show a huge NASA weather satellite plowing across the skies above Canada.

When this video and the claims made for it first surface online, a number of otherwise reputable news publishers latched on to it and reported that the satellite must have crashed in Canada. In doing so, they confused speculation for fact.

Later, once it was reported that the satellite had actually splashed down in the ocean off the West coast of the USA, that video and the early reports were clearly discredited. Some news organisations quickly retracted their initial stories or edited them -- by placing a question mark in the headline.

There were plenty of other faked reports popping up online, many like this one purporting to show the satellite crashing to earth nearby.

Eventually, most of the fakers have been exposed but this event does truly highlight the fact that, just because you read it on the Internet, doesn't mean it's true.

But why would people go to all the trouble of creating a hoax and misleading the public?

Simple... money!

The original video now generates revenue for the poster through YouTube's partner program and, based on the number of hits received so far, has probably put a princely sum in their pockets already. Unfortunately, in an age when it has never been easier to create such misleading material and never been easier to profit from it, the internet is becoming a huge source of disinformation.

What a shame.

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