Stay Internet savvy, double-check what you consume and share online

Sean Bassinger, forum editor

I love the Internet.

Since the first days of looking forward to America Online login periods at school (because this was the ONLY way we knew how to find Cartoon Network on the web), I continue to make new connections, learn new information on fascinating topics (outside of Wikipedia) and unwind with many forms of entertainment.

Sometimes, though, I wonder whether or not we’re squandering an amazing tool.

The Internet as we know it first originated through various projects from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to better exchange information through various network packets, according to the Internet Society website. Since then, the Internet has evolved into a central source of fast information access for public, commercial and (some) private uses.

And cat pictures. Holy crap, we have cat pictures galore.

Don’t forget the videos as well.

Still, this is something I file under the “harmless entertainment” category, which is totally fine in my book.

What concerns me more than anything in regards to the information superhighway is how we continue to share and discuss legitimate and illegitimate information.

Take unmarked satire news sources, for instance.

Many people know that The Onion, “America’s finest news source,” is a parody of all things journalism and mass media. The same organization recently created a site known as “ClickHole,” a hilarious parody of sites such as BuzzFeed, and “StarWipe,” a satirical online celebrity magazine.

These sites clearly have a purpose and a goal: to amuse and entertain in the name of satire.

A few others, however, take it to the next level. They may even disguise themselves as a legitimate news source, spreading tidbits of fake information in an effort to gain traffic and click hits.

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen sites disguised as legitimate ABC, NBC or CBS syndicates that turn out to be completely fake domains—you can usually tell at second glance if you pay attention to the web address; there are usually 10-20 characters too many.

Thankfully, websites such as Snopes have us covered if something seems too unbelievable to be true. Snopes allows contributors to gather information and fact check on whether or not the ocean of data we encounter online appears to be completely fabricated.

Though social media sites such as Facebook often mark their trending articles with a “satire” disclaimer, sometimes Snopes will even reassure us that an Onion article is fake if enough people share it with concern.

One such article—dated Nov. 15, 2015—was about SeaWorld animals being placed in plastic bags when park employees cleaned the tanks. This was satire, though some folks needed an additional reminder.

The Internet is an amazing tool that we only continue to improve upon, but wwe need to remember that not everything we see or read online is necessarily true.

This is also why, for ages, newspapers (ours included) and books still run corrections if any audience member happens to come across an inaccuracy or error. This is less of a sign of unprofessional behavior, but more of a mark of dedication to make sure legitimacy stays established.

It is therefore the responsibility of each Internet user to make sure that the information they share and consume is as accurate as possible.

If not, seek out ways to improve the information or find more reliable sources.

And if it’s completely made up with no disclaimer or intention of satire, avoid it at all costs.

Meanwhile, happy cat viewing.

The opinions expressed in Bassinger’s column do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff.

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