Monday, June 2, 2014

Be Careful of Your Sources

With the explosion of the Internet over the past decade and the ability of anyone to post anything at extremely low cost, it is very important to check sources before accepting information as valid.  A standing joke is, “I read it on the Internet, so it must be true!”  But it’s not a joke when you are taken in, especially if you are taken in by disreputable advertisers or your health might be at stake.

The first example was circulated on Facebook and was fairly harmless.  It tells of government waste, funding a military tank with the sole capability of spinning in circles and then blowing up.  The source is the Onion, a well known, satirical website.  It’s just for fun and harmless, except to people who are looking any excuse to rant about government waste and don’t take time to read the whole article or those who haven’t heard of the Onion's reputation.  (The other headlines and comments should give it away, like 96 degrees and sunny, “just right to slip on a t-sweater.”)

The next comes from the National Report – sounds legitimate, but it’s also a spoof about how the use of solar panels not only absorbs sunlight, but is actually sucking extra energy from the sun, which will lead to a depletion of sunlight within a couple of hundred years.  Crazy as it sounds, some of the comments refuse to accept it as a satire and insist that it’s a serious story published by the anti-green forces to draw votes and increase their power and influence.  One of the many things that should give it away is the name of the investigating organization, Wyoming Institute of Technology (WIT) – get-it? – wit.

The finally example gets more serious.  “The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has sued a Florida-based operation that capitalized on the green coffee diet fad by using bogus weight loss claims and fake news Web sites to market the dietary supplement Pure Green Coffee.  Popularized on the syndicated talk show The Dr. Oz Show, green coffee bean extract was touted as a potent weight loss treatment that supposedly burns fat.”  The FTC charged them with making false claims about the product’s results and paying people to endorse it, while giving the impression that those endorsements were independent and unbiased.  They also set up sites for fictitious news organizations such as Women's Health Journal and Healthy Living Reviewed to promote their product and also used logos from actual news organizations without permission.  Does that mean you can’t believe everything you hear from Dr. Oz?

The moral of the story, or stories, is that technology and instant access to news and information, wonderful as it is, also makes life more difficult requiring strong research skills and critical thinking to cut through not only the satire, but also the serious snake oil sales pitches.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Click again on the title to add a comment