People express many different ideas and opinions on the internet. Sometimes those ideas and views may not align with yours or you might know that it is based on misinformation. Deciding what you should do about that can be tricky.
To correct or not to correct?
Sometimes it’s best to ignore people who are wrong on the internet.
But what if they are sharing information that could put someone in danger? And what about when your own friends or whānau are wrong?
Here are some strategies you can use when correcting online misinformation.
- No one likes to be told they’ve made a mistake. So be kind and respectful.
- Use humour when correcting misinformation. Jokes and silliness work better than being harsh.
- If you know the person in real life, talk to them in person,
- Not everyone is open to having their mistakes corrected. That’s OK!
- If you are worried about someone’s safety, ask a trusted adult to help.
Don’t feed the trolls
Some people like to argue with strangers on the internet. Some do it for fun. Others argue to promote an opinion. And some do it as a form of bullying.
When these people share misinformation, it is tempting to want to correct them. Especially when they say things you disagree with or that hurt your feelings.
But feeding the trolls isn’t worth it. Using the mute or block option on bothersome trolls can make your time online more pleasant.
Here are some trolling techniques to watch out for when you are online:
“Just asking questions” is how you can spot a sea lion online. Repeated questions – and demands for evidence – might seem polite and sincere at first. But sea lions just don’t stop. They don’t really want more information. Their goal is to annoy you and make you question your own understanding.
“But what about X” is how you can spot this kind of troll. No matter what you might say, these trolls want to focus on something different – and usually unrelated. They never think you are caring about the right thing. Their goal is to distract you and make you feel defensive.
Not everyone online is who they claim. Sock puppets are accounts that pretend to be someone else. They might argue with you, or even with each other. There are lots of different reasons trolls use sock puppet accounts – be wary of online debates. If you don’t know the person, remember that they might not be who they say they are.
“Do your own research” is a common line in online arguments. But no matter how much research you’ve done – if these trolls disagree with you, they will say it’s not enough. Or question the sources of your research. Choose your sources wisely – and remember your lateral reading and evidence checking skills.
Memes as misinformation
Memes are fun and easy to make. They can make you laugh. And they are perfect for sharing with friends.
But some memes spread misinformation – and fast.
It’s almost impossible to know who created a meme. And without that information, you won’t know whether it is a hurtful or helpful meme.
When looking at a meme ask yourself:
- Is this meme hurtful towards a person or group of people?
- Does it have information that can be verified?
- What do I think the person who created it is trying to make me do or think?
Sometimes people on the internet are so invested in the misinformation they believe that they make others unsafe.
They might be sharing untrue information that could put people’s health at risk. Or they could be encouraging others to break the law. They could even be trying to trick you to get money.