The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

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Opinion

July 22, 2013

Measure twice, cut once

GREENVILLE — It is amazing how quickly Internet rumors spread these days. While widespread Internet access and the rapidly increasing popularity of “smart” phones has made information more accessible than ever before, it has also increased the speed at which false information can spread.

Rumors abound regarding popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter implementing a new system that would force users to pay. And stories about what national and state politicians did (or did not) say or do are commonplace.

What is even more surprising about these rumors is how easily they can be discredited. Recently, a post regarding a statement from President Barack Obama on the Fourth of July made the Facebook rounds. But, upon more research, the source of the story proved to be a satirical website.

Often, websites such as www.snopes.com debunk these rumors and cite their sources. But those same rumors persist.

What all Internet users should know by now is, just because something is published online, does not mean it is factual. The more unreliable a story is, the less likely it is entirely accurate.

Recently, blogs and online newspapers across the country started posting about the removal of a law that prohibited the U.S. government from disseminating propaganda to U.S. citizens. The rumor indicated that the U.S. government would begin feeding this propaganda to U.S. news outlets.

While this story is sensationalist in nature, it did contain certain truths. There really was a law that prohibited the state department from granting access to propaganda disseminated to foreign countries to U.S. citizens. And certain restrictions of that law, the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, were removed.

In reality, however, some U.S. citizens were frustrated by the fact that they could not be given official access to the public relations information we were sending to other countries. And, all of this information was available on the Internet, anyway.

That’s not to say that American citizens and journalists shouldn’t be wary about the information the state department can now give us.

After all, you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.

The opinion expressed here is that of the Herald-Banner editorial board.

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