I’m weary of the memeification of false facts. Memes seem to have taken over Facebook, and to a lesser extent, Twitter. Over the past week, I’ve responded to memes purporting to state “facts” which aren’t true. The first related to Trump’s alleged economic achievements related to the black community; the second related to alleged compensation/spending by well-known charitable organizations. Both memes were posted by people whose opinions I value, who are good people. I don’t think either would intentionally post something false, but they did. Perhaps I should be more sensitive, but in both case, I did a little research, and posted authentic links by trusted news and fact-checking sources showing that the statements included in the memes were, in large part, false.
What has happened to us? Why are we checking our brains at the door of Facebook? Why do we so easily “share” misinformation? What happened to intellectual curiosity? Analytical thinking? Even basic spidey-senses that should hint to us, “this doesn’t sound right”? Does Facebook have any obligation to prohibit information that is demonstrably false or misleading?
People scream about 1st amendment rights. But there are a couple of problems with that position. First, the 1st amendment only governs governmental control over speech – government can impose only reasonable “time, place, manner” restrictions on speech. Government (subject to very narrow exceptions) can’t control WHAT you say – only where and when you say it. Second, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms aren’t government, and have no obligation (legal or otherwise) to permit people spreading false information. Folks have no more right to post on Facebook than they have to comment on this blog. Indeed, my own hosting company could decide it no longer wants me to have a platform for my little blog, and I’d have to search for another outlet.
What can we do about it? First, remember that facts need support and research. Very few (if any) of society’s complex issues can be reduced to a meme. Check out the facts. A few of my go-to sources are Snopes, Politifact, and NPR. There are other good ones out there as well.
Please, if something sounds like it may not be quite right, check it out before posting. If it is based in fact, help readers like me, and provide links to the source material.