The motto for journalism is to “seek the truth and report it.” It depends on where you obtain the truth, though, because your sources might not always be correct. With the ease of sharing on social media in today’s world, it is easy for journalists to believe and post wrong information.
When breaking news occurs, a lot of information about the events come from people on or near the scene. Eager to get the news out the quickest, journalists risk the chance of being inaccurate when they get information from unreliable sources. It’s not like we need to make a big deal out of mistakes that happen occasionally, but this becomes a big issue when the false information gets circulated so quickly.
This is beginning to happen more frequently with pictures and videos. A picture along with a caption can go viral, and everyone will talk about it. The truthfulness of the picture or caption is not always as it seems. If 10,000 other people share a post, they all cannot be incorrect, right? Well, the answer is actually yes.
BBC posted an article detailing a lot of misleading pictures from 2015. A majority of the pictures came with a captions saying that they were taken during a tragedy (such as the Nepal earthquake or the Paris shootings), but most of time, they weren’t. In the midst of a tragedy, people are willing to share anything that has to do with the incident.
This happens more often than not outdated pictures or videos and inaccurate information along with it.
But once these pictures and videos go viral, it’s hard to spread the right information afterwards. These kinds of things get especially touchy when it has to do with such topics as the Syrian refugee crisis and other controversial topics. The people on social media will believe anything as long as everyone else thinks so, too.
If only people took the time to check something before they shared it, a lot of this misinformation could be avoided. Memes, often pictures with images on them, are very popular in sharing wrong information as well. These are easy images to share that everyone assumes has correct information on them.
In 2015, a meme went viral with a quote from Donald Trump in People magazine in 1998 saying, “If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie, and they’d still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific.”
A lot of people automatically believed this and ate it up. It seems pretty realistic and convincing, but he never actually said it. People’s archives are proof that those words never came out of his mouth. And Trump isn’t the only one who this has happened to. This goes to show how checking your sources is incredibly important, especially if you are following the election based on what you hear from social media.