Seek the truth when browsing

Nassir Kaddoura , Guest Columnist

The Internet is a valuable medium that has changed the way we send and receive information, and the effect has been overwhelmingly positive. Because of how easy it is to spread this information, many people are able to send out false, hateful and harmful video content. In order to become media literate, we must be skeptical and ask questions about said information. It’s important to check multiple sources when presented with knowledge and information,

A famous example of what happens when people are not verifying information they receive is the story of Jenny McCarthy, the most famous face of the Anti-vaccination movement. A supposed link between vaccines and autism was first seen in a study conducted by Andrew Wakefield and published in a medical journal called The Lancet. The contents of this notorious study led to the belief that there was a connection between the two, which caused  a stir among parents throughout the country. Upon examination, however, “the paper has since been discredited due to serious procedural errors, undisclosed financial conflicts of interest, and ethical violations.”

According to the article “Vaccine Myths Debunked,” Andrew Wakefield lost his medical license and the article was retracted from The Lancet. Nevertheless, Jenny McCarthy stood by her position that vaccines caused her son to develop autism and she resorted to remedies she found online, such as casein/gluten free diet in an attempt to cure her son’s condition.  Despite her doctor advising against this change, and ignoring the fact that correlation does not prove causation, she noticed improvements in her son’s condition and attributed it to the  diet.. To this day she is still against vaccinating her children and is following her gut feeling instead of believing in scientific research that disproves her belief. In this specific example, one month before her son’s routine vaccine, she had read in Time magazine that the MMR shot (measles, mumps and rubella) is the “Autism Shot,” and that many parents were concerned about this risk. Because of what she read in the magazine that day, it instilled so much fear into her that when her son was born with autism, she took the information as fact.

I feel as though many people today can relate to something like this, whether it’s our grandmother reading an article claiming to know the miracle cure for cancer or younger children downloading files with computer viruses in an attempt to get free cheats for games. We have a lot of information at our disposal and it becomes impossible to tell what is real without investigation and skepticism. We must try to seek the truth and debunk lies. By questioning and investigating information that we read, we can hopefully reduce the amount of false information that is spread around the Internet and our local communities.

If a relative or loved one introduces new information that seems unlikely or far-fetched, we should not let it go unchecked and deem it an “opinion.” If you have time, ask questions and try to determine the source to see if you can do more research. This may not seem like a problem to some, but when someone takes action based on a false fact, it hurts many others in our society and jeopardizes the integrity of discussion on important issues that need facts in order to be addressed properly. The anti-vaccine movement was based on a false premise and has influenced thousands of people not to protect their children and has endangered many more by risk of exposure to preventable diseases. Although an uncommon event, the anti-vaccine movement serves as a cautionary tale citing the dangers and negative influence that unverified information can have.