Disinformation, whether intentional or unintentional quickly spreads across the internet
The threat of tiny black holes slowly swallowing up Earth as the Large Hadron Collider was switched on last week led to many jokes across the internet involving dumb eggheads with a death wish. Not everyone was laughing. The man credited with inventing the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has expressed concern at how his creation allows for the lightning fast dissemination of disinformation across the globe. He particularly highlighted how the notion that our world is in jeopardy from the LHC spread so quickly through the media yet was demonstrated to be false.
In response to the danger of false information finding a safe home on the internet, Berners-Lee is launching a foundation:
The Foundation will brand sites that it has found to be trustworthy and reliable sources of information.
For those of us familiar with the internet and its ways, the elasticity of truth and its blurred lines with falsehood is no great surprise. To counter disinformation, companies like Reputation Hawk have sprung up, promising to fix your online reputation whether you’re a business or an individual:
If you or your company is getting bashed on the net – they can evidently ‘fix’ it. But they don’t contact the owners of the offending web sites which is what we immediately assumed, instead they focus on pushing the negative information off of the first few pages in Google. This new field is known as internet reputation management or online reputation management.
The free flow of information heralded by the internet age has had its drawbacks as we’ve noted already. Both Berners-Lee and Reputation Hawk consider vigilance to be the key to countering damaging information or disinfo that finds a very fertile atmosphere in the virtual world.