Fake News and Our Christian Responsibility

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Ok, I am not into conspiracy theories.  Nor, do I tend to quickly discredit news organizations.  I do believe however that news programming tends to intentionally create hype.  There is a specific emotional appeal that producers are attempting to create.  If you listen closely to the language, there is a lot of superlatives such as “worst storm ever” or “the country is terrified.”  It annoys me that they are attempting to frame the news story by manipulating my emotions.

Since the election, there has been a new twist to news programming that has surfaced.  Apparently, there are numerous groups that are producing “fake news” with the clear intent to deceive its readers.  These organizations appear to be legitimate; however, the substance is pure fiction (or least primarily fiction with a few factual bits to make it seem credible).  This past week Facebook has come under intense scrutiny for allowing fake news to be shared through its site.  In fact, there are questions being raised how much it impacted the election results.

I have seen numerous fake news postings whenever I log into Facebook.  I had seen these posting in the run up to the election from people I know and respect including believers.  I concluded that the sites originated from fringe groups with specific opinions.  However, it is now evident that these groups intentionally and knowingly strive to manipulate opinions with falsehoods.  Unfortunately, numerous people believed these stories as certifiable facts.

As a believer, I am thinking through some implications…

  • Is not sharing fake news a form of gossip and potential slander? By definition, gossip is “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.”  Scripture very clearly states that gossip is a sin.  Therefore, are we not sinning when we share news reports that are knowingly and intentionally deceitful?
  • God calls us to promote things that are true. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”  (Philippians 4:8)  Ok, since this is true, should we not verify whether or not a particular news feed is true before we share it?  Should we not be responsible in our intellect not careless?
  • Wisdom should prevail. Social media is a wonderful place to connect with friends.  It is a great gathering place for conversation.  However, it is also a place where our thoughts and emotions are formed, knowingly or unknowingly, by other people’s posts.  Therefore, we should be wise as believer in what we endorse.  I recently overheard someone apologize for a video they shared on Face book.  The response, “I did not know it contained that offensive comment.”   Lesson learned – we should evaluate the post prior to sharing it.

All life is spiritual thus requires a spiritual perspective including technology.

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