More On Fact-Checking

Should you verify matters on the internet? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last week, I saw a lot of this situation happening. First, someone I know from back in Knoxville messaged me on Facebook about something involving Wal-Mart brand water. It looked to be something like it freezing instantly. Then I was told to pass this on to everyone I knew immediately.

99.9% of these things shared in a Facebook blast are false.

And it didn’t take long to see that this was one of them. I asked the person if they had checked the claim before sending it to me. Of course not. I then pointed out the falseness of the claim. There was no acknowledgment of this.

Some of you out there might not like Wal-Mart and I get that, and I’m also not saying this person is one of them, but that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to share false information about them. There are many people working there who are just trying to provide for themselves and their families and when you share information that is false, you hurt every single one of them. Of course, it’s not that all of this sharing means the company shuts down, but it does do damage in the long run.

The second one I am happy to say has now apparently been taken down. It involved a quote from Henry Kissinger to a UN Council on Eugenics stating about what would happen when people were told that vaccinations were necessary. I got suspicious of this one immediately and I and several people asked for a source. None was given and I was told to do my own homework.

Of course, I already had. The thing is that if you make a claim and someone challenges you on it, it’s not their job to do their homework necessarily. It’s yours to back it. If you do not, you are again possibly bearing false witness.

Yet despite both of these, the last instance was the first.

This last one was in a discussion group for Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox, where debate takes place. Someone posted the following. The meme was bad enough being full of false information, but the source that it came from made it even worse.

The source was someone named David Koenig who posted on a page about Catholic truth for Protestants. In his post first sharing the meme, he said the following:

“The founder of Protestantism is in hell because he committed SUICIDE!!!

Through out his life Luther was always depressed Man who got punished by God counted less time’s, he even talked to Demon’s, even the devil himself while he was still an Augustineian Monk and after he created Protestantism.”

I left the grammar exactly as it was also.

First off, Luther did not die this way. Several quickly showed up to point this out. The second point is far more important for me. I say this as someone married to someone who can struggle with suicidal thinking and has had attempts. Imagine what it does to the average person whether Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox, who might not be well-grounded in theology and they hear that someone is in Hell because they committed suicide and they have a loved one who did do that.

We can debate what does happen to the suicide, but if you’re going to make such a dogmatic statement, there needs to be some backing. Not only did this person make an attack based on false information, but they could cause great unnecessary harm to people already suffering immensely. This person decided that such was not needed and I really consider that the worst part of this post.

If we’re followers of Jesus, we have to do better than all of these. Sharing false information on the internet will damage other people and also will hurt your reputation. That makes it even worse. After all, if you share something that I can see is false in just five minutes of checking and I realize you did not check your claims, why should I, if I am a skeptic, believe you on the resurrection of Jesus?

Let’s look at the Catholic posting in particular here. Fortunately, I know several Catholics who are brilliant minds and so I know this is an anomaly, but let’s suppose that this was typical for Catholics online. I could say it is sadly for Muslims and internet atheists. What will be the result? I would likely take Catholicism far less seriously than I do. I am still a convinced Protestant, but I know the majority of Catholics I meet are not like this, but for those that are, you are doing a disgrace to what you think is the church of God.

If you can’t verify it, you probably shouldn’t share it.  My own wife can tell you that when she reads something like news on Facebook, I immediately ask “Source?” If you are unsure, you can share a caveat of something of the sorts like, “I did some checking and couldn’t find anything to verify this, but it does concern me. Does anyone know anything about this?”

Truth is something valuable we should all hold on to. Yesterday my wife was watching an interview on Dr. Phil with a compulsive liar who was addicted to it. Three people she had hurt were on stage and it was clear with one of them they would never be friends and another said they don’t know if they can believe anything this liar says.

You don’t want that kind of reputation yourself. Fact check please.

In Christ,
Nick Peters