Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bullshit Prevention Protocol

I love this with all my heart. I wish I could surround it in blinking neon lights. If I had my way, this would be on every cereal box in America. More importantly, it would be a daily pop-up on every social media website. 

I borrowed the above from this blog post:, which you should check out; it's an intelligent, quick read. However, the original article is geared toward journalism; I'd like to look at how it applies to misinformation in social media. 

1. Who is telling me this? If you know the person in real life, consider their personal politics and views. Is it possible they believe the link or story without question because it falls easily in line with their beliefs?
If you don't know them personally, take a few minutes to scroll back through their feed. Seeing a lot of suspicious activity? ("Obama is a secret Muslim!") You can probably consider the case closed. 

2. How does s/he know this? What if this person seems pretty level-headed, though? Well, now it's time to consider their source. If they've shared a link, click through (provided your virus software is up-to-date, of course). What do you see? A blog with a somewhat canted title ("")? Misspellings and grammatical errors? Lots of declarations, but no bibliographical links or attributions? Big ol' red flags, folks. Click away and think cleansing thoughts. 

3. Given #1 and #2, is it possible that s/he is wrong? So, you've screened the source individual, and the article looks pretty legit. The writer has lots of supporting links and a fair command of the English language. Now what?
Now we look closer. Click those supporting links and read on. Yesterday, I read a blog post on the dangers of vaccination which actually debunked itself with its own links. Because the writer didn't understand the science behind vaccines and how they work (specifically, the difference between "live" vaccines and "attenuated live" vaccines) and wasn't a terribly careful reader (due to recent travel, the possibility of "wild" virus infection in the child studied could not be ruled out by researchers) the post turned out to be an alarmist bushel of baloney, based on misunderstanding. 
Oh, and by the way...I didn't know the difference between "live" and "attenuated live" either. But, when I found a phrase I wasn't familiar with, I Googled it. 

4. If answer to #3 is yes, find another source. Which brings me to my favorite part ...Google. If you are reading this, you are on the internet, which means you have access to Google. So, for the love of llamas, frigging Google it already! A simple keyword search should get you page one results. And if you can't find a legitimate, independent news source--not another blog, but a newspaper or major media source--to back it up, then don't believe it, and don't share it. Assume bullshit. 

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