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KATIE ZERR: Research can find truth about online ‘experts’

The Internet is changing our society. but is it for the better?
There are many uses for the technology super highway with something new being introduced, it seems, on a daily basis.
Our Internet world is an all-encompassing information market that can open so many doors in education, business and news. It is a tool that most use everyday in their work life.
It is incredible what a person can dig up if they have enough time to spend searching the Internet.
It is an incredible research tool in the news business. It can also be a trap just waiting to happen. One must always search a bit deeper than the surface to find out what is truth and what is not when researching a topic on the Internet. Those who don’t go far enough fall into the trap that can cost a reporter, a news anchor, even teachers, a job.
There have been many examples about how fabricated information found on the Internet has cost people their jobs. There are also people who, while searching the “Net,” have reposted or forwarded information on their own social media that ends up with that person being unemployed.
The Internet is one of the primary tools that is used to spread non-factual information that plays a huge role in the political divide in our country.
It is filled with stories that if one only reads what they need to justify their political ideals and never anything else, those ideals and attitudes are justified. If a person does not stray from biased information sources, they would think the political world was filled with soulless, money-driven mongrels who care for nothing but the size of their bank accounts or the power their positions bring.
Although it sometimes feels like these notions are true, most of the information on which these opinions are based, can be researched and debunked. But if someone wanted to find a so-called expert whose opinion will help to rationalize their point of view there are millions of them on line.
Here-in is where the problem lies. If a searcher is looking for information on how a certain politician is a secret member of a racist society or owns stock in a business that is destroying the environment, they can find it on the Internet, whether there is any truth in the matter or not.
If that is where the search stops, but the information is shared on Social Media, it is passed on to others of the same ilk and spreads across the Internet.
If a searcher decides that his or her group is being persecuted, treated unfairly or is being suppressed, there is information on the Internet to defend his or her stance.
When that searcher finds information that is an opinion and passes it on as factual information, that is where the dangers lie. Although opinion can be based in fact, one must take research beyond that first step to find out if that is the case.
Time and time again so-called experts, or those who label themselves as information insiders, with a little research, are found out to be imposters.
Facebook, which was initially created as a tool for people to keep connected with each other, has become a tool for harassment and bullying. Other forms of Social Media have also been used as tools to beat down and humiliate people. Information found on the Internet is sometimes used in that process.
It is so easy to sit behind a keyboard and attack others. Some feel it is a tool that makes them powerful when, in fact, it is a coward’s tool when it comes to harassing another.
Recently Chamath Palihapitiya, who was a vice president at Facebook, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company of which he was a part.
“I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media.
Although his criticisms were widely reported as an attack on Facebook, he used the forum to point out the danger of the Internet on our society.
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to online interactions driven by “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.” “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”
Although there is a vast majority of incredibly useful information available at our fingertips, there is also much out there that is harmful and is misused.
Unfortunately there is information that gets into the mainstream that is not factual, cannot be verified beyond a so-called expert’s posting and is passed as truth.
We as adults should be able to decipher right from wrong, but sometimes zealots don’t want to bother with finding out if information they are passing on is truthful as long as it helps them make their point.
That is one of the biggest dangers of the Internet in our society