Welcome back to Digital Debate Wednesdays! Every Wednesday, the staff of The Ace of Geeks will get our keyboards ready for a good, old fashioned nerd argument, and you get to hang out with us! Feel free to email us any ideas you might have for future debates, or let us know in the comments! Until then, here’s this weeks topic:
Bullshit. Specifically, bullshit on the internet. We’ve all seen it, most of us have fallen for it at one time or another. Whether it’s Joss Whedon directing a Star Wars movie or chocolate being extra good for you when you’re pregnant, click baity, too-good-to-be-true headlines assault us all day on Facebook, and you won’t believe what happens next.
So, with that in mind, how do we go about FIXING the problem? What do you do to keep track of what information is accurate and what’s bullshit? And how do you help others do the same?
Joe Hadsall: We all have to do what Carl Sagan wanted for us, and that’s to develop our own baloney detectors. This is a particularly sore subject for me, on a day when I have to sift through fake Facebook events in order to find the REAL FB events that I can publish in our weekend entertainment section. Can we control it? No. But we can, through our detection and ignoring of it, discourage future pranksters from seeing potential.
Scott Woodbury: This is what i meant that the internet is way ahead of our cultural development.
It’s the damn wild west. Personally I have strong opinions on the matter.
I would add an age requirement to unfettered access to the internet. I’d make posting anonymously difficult in most situations unless it was to protect oneself in a whistle-blower situation.
I am not for censoring the internet, but I am for people being responsible for what they say.
- Teresa Loesch: I can’t get behind this. This is one of those scenarios where the tools of our enemies are also the tools of our allies. Being able to have completely anonymous posting, specifically, can help budding Neo Nazis find their disgusting voices, but it can also be the only reason that LGBTQ+ teens feel safe enough to investigate their feelings and find safe spaces for themselves. This is just one of countless examples. What about domestic violence victims who need to stay inconspicuous because their abusers are still looking for them? Etc.
Besides, who wants to do even innocuous activities under their real name all the time? I don’t want to have to play The Culling as Teresa Loesch. Who would have access to everything I’ve ever done online? What if it was decided that people who played more than 100 hours of COD were too dangerous to employ around children? (I know (or hope) that a ban like this specifically would be struck down, but I hope my point is clear.)
Online anonymity is a great resource. Some, of course, seek to use this power to do evil, but I don’t see how punishing those who use it for good is helping the world be a better place.
- Malkontent Blizzard: As someone who is actively harmed by the FB realname policy and as an LGBTIQ youth activist I have to agree that this is not a solution I can get behind. Besides, look at FB on any given day and tell me that it’s really succeeded in making it a more civil space.
- Scott Woodbury: Please educate me. I am not familiar on how it can harm you. I’d like to understand.
In the online gaming world I have experienced to many trolls and people who hide behind the mask so to say. It has exposed me to some really horrible people.
- Chris Brecheen: I’ll leave this here in lieu of trying to make an exhaustive list. But suffice to say that some communities are actively HARMED by being real named.
- Teresa Loesch: Even when it’s not literally life and death, having to have every single thing I do tied to my real name is oppressive. It’s also a mark of your experience that you believe having everyone’s real names out there means you’ll experience less harassment gaming.
I don’t voice chat in a couple games because douches crawl out of the woodwork to kill me, verbally harass me, etc. If I had to play under my real name, there would be no way to fly under the radar at all. Lacking any evidence to the contrary, douches online assume I’m a dude as well and I can play the game.
- Scott Woodbury: Thank you, I never realized this. I will definitely be changing my stance.
Lauren Harrington: Research. Double check resources. Hope.
Nick Bailey Jr: I’ve found the perfect way to avoid fake headlines! You avoid giving them ad revenue everytime you don’t click them. I read comments and see what others say. But ultimately, there is no way to stop it. Someone will always fall for clickbait.
Joe Hadsall: THESE ARE THE BEST WAYS TO AVOID BULLSHIT ON THE INTERNETS NO. 4 BLEW ME AWAY!
- Teresa Loesch: i crie evry tim
- Malkontent Blizzard: Big truth doesn’t want you to know about these tricks.
Melissa Devlin: I post from http://www.snopes.com/ a lot, and now http://realorsatire.com/ If something sounds fishy I investigate it at one of those two first, after that some googling. Then I post my find in the comments stream. As for info-graphics, I fact check some of them, some of them I will admit to sharing without checking if I either know it to be true or I’m sharing for the humour value. And one meme was so noxious, I posted the rebuttal it was shared with, and loosely described the meme. I wasn’t sharing that shit.
Sam Stafford: Charlatans and mountebanks have always been with us. As ever, the best defense is skepticism.
The main difference the Internet has brought us is that it’s now possible to monetize attention — so the mountebank doesn’t need to actually sell you his snake oil, he just needs to get you to LOOK at his sales pitch.
If you don’t want to encourage the proliferation of these things, you need to have the discipline to ignore them. Don’t click them, don’t leave comments (each refresh is another view), and for God’s sake don’t share it to all your friends in the hopes of having your outrage validated.
Learn which sites to ignore and which to trust. And if a site is trustworthy and courts you with respect rather than trolling you with clickbait, maybe reward them by buying some merch or supporting their Patreon or whatever you can do that isn’t just feeding the ad revenue monster.
Joe Hadsall: Seriously, look at this bullshit:
Fakes? Obvi. But one of these events was published by a guy who organizes actual events that I wanna give some ink to. I have to resort to this because I care about readers, but promoters — despite their obvious need for publicity — don’t give a shit about my readers. Talk about lazy fuckin’ pranking. /rant
- Melissa Devlin: Jeez, I didn’t even know fake facebook events were a thing.
- Sam Stafford: Those are wonderful and I’m okay with them.
Luke Farr: Yeah I’m gonna say that I’ve been one of those annoying people commenting on people’s shared links and posts with links to Snopes for many years. People will always fall for bullshit, it predates the Internet and it will continue for a long time to come.
- Malkontent Blizzard: I always appreciate the help. I get fooled often enough that my snoping friends are heaven sent.
- Joe Hadsall: If by “annoying people,” you mean “illuminated warrior for truth and destroyer of bullshittery,” then you’re right.
- Mike Fatum: You should really put that on your cards.
Mark Foo: Call bullshit out when you see it. Burn the heretics.
Chris Brecheen: I see a lot of the usual suspects. Snopes. Skepticism. Being wary if it seems too good to be true. Yes to all.
Also, I think the other part of it is understanding that we now live in a world where raw (and bad) data vastly outweighs actual factual information, and considering how easy it can be to get swept up in outrage porn when we want something to be true. And we’ve all been on the other side. Sometimes even the national news has run stories that weren’t vetted enough. When we point out that someone got bamboozled, we can be better about it so that the focus is on the information and not the person being gullible.
Also when we’re on the other end, we thank folks for the hip check rather than defend it or say something like “Well who can tell in THIS political climate!” or something.
- Malkontent Blizzard: Which brings up the other aggravating influence…election year.
- Mike Fatum: Chris’ point hit right on something I’ve been trying to put my finger on. It’s so easy to say, “Haha, you dumb idiot, you got fooled!” but it’s happened to everyone I know at least once. It’s better to respond with education and compassion than mockery.
Raven Knighte: I have a tendency to ignore it and not contribute to the perpetration of it. If it isn’t given attention of any sort, eventually it fades away. I have fallen for bullshittery – don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect. I do research, and Snopes is my friend. But overall, if something smells fishy, I walk away.