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Maura Mikulec, San Clemente

We have serious problems in our nation with information. In order to make important decisions, we all need accurate and factual information. Attacks on our press and an abundance of propaganda machines posing as news sources are central to the problem.

But another critical problem is that so many of us get a lot of our information/news from each other, primarily through social media. Why is that a problem (besides the obvious)? Let me tell you about a recent experience I’ve had that perfectly illustrates the issue.

I recently wrote and published a piece to dispel myths about the availability of homeless shelters in South County, because there are people who are passionate and prolific contributors to local groups who don’t fully understand the facts and repeatedly share misinformation. The misinformation greatly influences how the issues are viewed and possibly even impacted recent local elections. Think the telephone game with consequence.

In order to ensure that the citizens have the facts—so we can work together on solutions—I shared my article to two different city-centered social media groups, and it was shared by others too, including to one other local group. In those groups, people expressed how informative the article was and how much they learned. Some, finally armed with accurate information, seemed to be motivated to (correct) action.

However—and here’s the problem—the people who continually spread the misinformation in these groups created a ruckus in every single group, trying to disprove the facts (with their cursory, inexperienced “research”) and levied personal attacks on people who questioned them. Due to the controversy and negativity created—not the content of the article—the article was removed from all three groups.

Now the prevailing misinformation remains out there. How can we ever see the issues accurately and work together to find proper solutions to problems if a small group of people, who are not credentialed experts, have so much control over the information so many people have? And, yes, it’s not lost on me how this activity in South Orange County mirrors what has happened on a national level.

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comments (2)

  • Very accurate, Maura.

    Thankfully, Fakebook is dying, which is a good thing. The remaining people that are active are quickly dropping off as that platform is well past its prime.

    It is happening because the Fakebook narratives and guidelines are weak and they embolden mobs who troll and cyberbully.

    Traditional news media has not existed for some time now. What is left of news organizations are essentially marketing companies. If you follow where these marketing companies get their money and take a macro view of their content, patterns start to emerge. This is why news sources have lost all confidence from the public.

    This means that voters need to be more skilled at navigating noise from facts than ever before.

  • One correction to the letter: I wrote that the post/article was removed in three local groups for the ruckus that was caused by others in response to it, not removed because of the content of the article itself. Since this letter was submitted, the article was shared one more time to a local group. In that group it was reported – by the same people referenced in the letter as causing ruckuses – for being “political.” An admin from that group removed the post for itself being political, not only because the same group of people stirred things up. That said – and understanding why some groups don’t want controversial issues – it’s still a problem, because there are ongoing ways that the misinformation gets out there, but a piece with factual information to dispute it is not allowed.

    I am grateful for independent news sources and good old-fashioned journalism where the facts can get out there, and not be drowned or pushed out.

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