By John Stone
With the presidential campaign in high gear, the fact checkers are busy and both the campaigns of President Donald J. Trump and that of his challenger, former Vice-president Joe Biden, have been caught making statements that are untrue or misrepresent one situation or another.
Further complicating the mess is that Russia, Iran and China are all apparently, according to U.S. intelligence officials, doing their bits to influence the election one way or another.
Those nations place stories that may not be true on social media through literally thousands of accounts they have established. They try to hide the true account holder’s identity to make it more difficult for social media outlets to merely block the accounts by owner.
Facebook, Twitter and most other such media do not have editors to verify anything that is posted. The responsibility for the truthfulness of anything is with the person who posts an item.
More traditional print and television media identify their sources and then use other sources to verify what one source told them. If Chicken Little said the sky is falling an editor would want the reporter to verify that he or she indeed had talked with Chicken Little and would then have a reporter find another knowledgeable source in falling skies to verify Chicken Little’s interpretation of what was to happen.
Traditional media prefer to identify their sources because it increases credibility of the information. If Chicken Little is a respected physicist, the reporter would find another respected physicist to comment.
Sometimes the media can’t get a source to allow identification. This is usually because the source could lose his or her job if identified. But most media still want additional verification of the information from another source and all sources will probably be identified to the editor. A reporter can’t simply say he heard something and write a story about it without verification. His or her work will be checked before publication or broadcast.
Perhaps the most misleading things in campaigns are commercials. Snippets of video from a variety of things can be put together to make them appear quite different. Sometimes just a word or two can be used following some other clipping to make things look different.
For example, a candidate might say the word “absolutely” in a film clip. The clip of the candidate saying those words might follow words from an announcer saying “So and so thinks we should raise taxes 10 percent” after which the clip of the candidate saying “absolutely” is spliced in. Misleading? Yes.
This is already an ugly campaign for the presidency. Various special interest groups are painting some pretty bleak pictures of our future if one or the other is elected president and the campaigns themselves are not far behind.
Be careful what you see and share on social media. If it is not from a source you trust, be careful. Also be sure that it is actually from the source you trust and not someone pretending to be that source.
Get information from reliable sources and be sure to vote!
John Stone is the former mayor of Glenwood and former publisher of the Pope County Tribune and Starbuck Times. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.