BOSTON (CBS) – In some ways, the internet and social media have made our lives easier, easier to connect with others, track down information, and process transactions. But if you care about finding the truth and being an informed citizen, especially in the heat of an election season, you have to work harder than ever, thanks to the web.
Case in point – the false claim that liberal Jewish billionaire George Soros is funding the migrant refugee march through Mexico, a lie that is now tied to both the recent spate of letter bombs and the slaughter of innocents in a Pittsburgh synagogue.
USA Today published a report Wednesday on where that lie came from and how Facebook, Twitter and Reddit’s unsupervised platforms quickly spread it to more than 850 million people.
It was shared by members of Congress and the likes of popular right-wing pundit Ann Coulter and Donald Trump Junior. I heard it repeated by a pro-Trump voter Wednesday afternoon in a live network TV interview.
Political partisans spinning and lying is nothing new, and it is hardly confined to conservatives.
But the weight and reach baseless slurs like this one are given by their access to social media is unprecedented.
And that process has been causing misery and death around the world for awhile now, as greed-crazed tech executives stand by and do little or nothing to stop it.
Now, it’s sliming all of us. And too many of us are too partisan or lazy or both to exercise minimal skepticism and do the minimal work necessary to determine if something we see online is true or a vicious lie.