While the internet and text messaging are powerful tools to spread news, information and ideas as well as a means to quickly organize and move people to action, irresponsible use of these tools can also leads to confusion, panic and unwarranted anxiety.
The recent tragedy in Japan, brought about by a series of earthquakes, followed by tsunamis, and then the partial nuclear meltdown in Fukushima brought the world together in prayers and cooperation in large part because of the availability of information in the traditional media and the internet.
|Map Of Japan showing evacuation zone around Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant (courtesy of CBS News).|
This of course pushed Mama Sez and me into action. We immediately searched the internet for updates and specifically looked for verification from major news network and government sources worldwide, the only ones we thought who'd be responsible enough to know and verify information before posting anything online. It turned out that the cited source, BBC News, has not posted any updates to indicate that radiation would reach the Philippines. We also used University and research organization websites to learn basic information about nuclear radiation leaks, precautions and handling of emergency situations. We eventually settled down about an hour later when we made judgment that the forwarded information was false. Our friend also later retracted the warning with a follow-up message saying that it is NOT true.
I guess the only way to guard against misinformation, deliberate or not, is to stay calm and immediately try to verify before forwarding the message. Being able to use and send information over the internet and/or via cell phone text messaging is POWER to influence and move other people to action, and wielding power requires all of us to be responsible as well.