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Combined with rumour and word-of-mouth, web browsers and social media are often guilty of facilitating the spread of misinformation.

Maybe it’s non-intentional, with the person presenting the “facts” not realizing they aren’t true. Maybe it’s intentional. No matter what the case, there are a lot of false reports out there.

The biggest culprit in all of this is rumour and speculation when it comes to the spread of misinformation.

In the end, a whole lot of people think they know something that they really don’t. Some become offended when you try to set the record straight.

Maybe it’s my background as a journalist that gives me the urge to speak up when someone is saying something I know to be purely false, but I think it’s only right to offer up what we know if we know it to be 100 per cent true. And if you’re not sure about something, you should always make that clear.

It’s not just about a person saying false things — it’s when they try to “inform” others with those falsehoods that I think it’s best to right the wrong.

And when I say speak up to set the record straight, I’m not talking about the little things that aren’t controversial or contentious — those things aren’t worth causing conflict for or jeopardizing a valuable relationship just because you have to be right.

For example, if someone said to you, “I’m excited because my dog just ate four treats,” and you knew for certain the pup only ate three, being right in that situation doesn’t really matter. It’s just a proud pet-owner being happy about their dog’s accomplishment — let them have their moment.

I know that’s just a small and silly example, but it’s important that we be able to distinguish when it’s time to right the record.

I’ll provide a true example of when a person should speak up with the facts, and it brings me to the reason I’m writing about this.

Over the past three weeks, there have been three destructive fires on New World Island — the first nearly destroyed the fish plant in Cottlesville, the second was a house fire in Summerford that completely swallowed the structure and the third was the lumber mill that was damaged to the point of shut-down last week.

While it’s coincidental to have three major fires occur in a short span of time, coincidence is all it is so far.

I’m from the area and I know the players. While I won’t attempt to report the facts here, I will say it’s too early for jumping to conclusions and placing blame on any person the public deems as shady or who might have a motive. Facebook and other social media platforms are certainly not the venue for speculating about who or what might be responsible for the fires.

Let the investigators do their work to determine the facts and give them a chance to report them to the public. We are all curious about what happened, but that curiosity shouldn’t affect our judgment.

The fight for truth is a daily crusade for me. I’ve been at it my whole life, and even more so since becoming a journalist.

It’s not about having an egotistical sense of being right either; it’s about preventing and stopping the spread of misinformation.

 

banstey@ganderbeacon.ca

Twitter:@beaconnl

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