These days, people will re-tweet, share, or “like” just about anything. Before the video has even been fully viewed they have hit the share button to relate their viral find to friends through their favored social media site.This feature is both the pitfall and novelty of the democratization of social media.
Kony 2012 brought an international spotlight to the plight of ridding East Africa of brutal, Lord’s Resistance Army(LRA) leader, Joseph Kony. The powerful video has now reached more than 78,000,000 views on YouTube and has been covered by major media outlets including BBC and NPR. The severity of the situation has been brought to international attention through the power of social media.
The problem is, it took thousands of views and re-shares before someone stopped to double check the organization, Invisible Children Inc., that was behind the mass media campaign and moving 30 minute video.Someone finally questioned the financial practices of the non-profit which lead to the production of a video where Ben Keesey, CEO of the organization gave a break down of their budget in efforts to dispel any misinformation that had surfaced. The information was released because someone realized that millions of people were passively watching and sharing the video, without ever stopping to test the validity of it.
Traditional print media is subject to fact checking and high standards of transparency, however, with the ability to share anything and everything with the click of a button, those standards have all but disappeared. This lack of accountability is the main reason why we are bombarded with a constant stream of misquotes, inaccurate facts, fake videos and photo shopped photos.
Social media has given the average person the amazing ability to be a part of and share content that could have a global impact, we have all been given the power to act as citizen journalists. If this has become every person’s role in society, then it is crucial that we do our best to test the validity of the content we choose to pass on. Here are three tips to help you do so:
1. Consider the Source
Seek out information on the organization or person that produced the content you are about to share. Is it reputable with an established history of accuracy or transparency?
2. Do your own research
Do not be afraid to dig a little. The Internet is full of sources, find reputable ones that have information on the source of the content you are investigating.
The only way you can know for sure if it is accurate is to look into multiple sources, never solely rely on just one. Journalism accuracy thrives on the rule of three, find three sources that can confirm a quote or statement before ever declaring it factual.
3. Avoid the bandwagon
Just because a topic keeps popping up on your Facebook and Twitter feed, it does not mean it is factual, accurate or worth sharing. Beware of jumping on the bandwagon and re-sharing something that you know little to nothing about. Avoid being a passive re-sharer, and consider the weight of responsibility that each share carries with it.