THE beauty of the Internet is that it is a medium that’s open to everyone, for them to post everything from text to pictures to video.
But it’s also becoming one of the biggest problems with the digital sphere. Can we believe anything we read or see on the Internet at all these days? Can we believe even news spread by word-of-mouth, considering the source of it was probably some attention-grabbing headline on a link on a Facebook timeline?
Take for example the recent hoax that the creator of the wildly popular smartphone game Flappy Bird, Dong Nguyen, had committed suicide.
Plenty of people were talking about it, and it seemed probable given that Nguyen had spoken about struggling with the sudden fame the game’s unexpected popularity brought about. Nguyen even removed it from mobile app stores.
And even as I’m writing this, a hoax about LA Clippers star Blake Griffin slapping Justin Bieber at a Starbucks was busted – not after whoever released it got what they wanted, whether it was traffic to their website, or just to humiliate Bieber.
But then there are hoaxes that seem so far-fetched that you’d assume no one would fall for them, and yet people do, and the “news” goes viral.
Case in point? The rumour that Fast And Furious star Paul Walker had actually faked his own death – with the help of his girlfriend. Thankfully this hoax was so crazy, it didn’t take too long for it to get busted. The emotional damage to Walker’s grieving girlfriend, daughter and all his friends and family, however, would have been done.
That’s why it’s important for us to not over-react to sensational stories. At BRATs, part of our journalism training is learning how to research, fact-check and practise accurate, fair and balanced reporting. These are values that seem to be slowly dying out, with so many websites willing to share unconfirmed news to increase traffic, and so many readers keen to simply be the first to share something sensational.
Our job as young people, and young journalists in particular, is to make sure we don’t fall into that trap. Why not share some important news, current affairs stories or inspiring articles instead? Now that would be the real beauty of the Internet.