I don’t care if you call it slander or defamation, if on social media you share false information about a person, company, organisation or product before you have checked the facts, I think you should be liable for some sort of justice from the party that you have unduly condemned. Just this week I have seen a few of my Facebook friends as well as my wife’s Facebook friends sharing a photo with the claim that beer maker Heineken sponsored a dogfight and therefore we should all boycott their product.
To keep my blog short(er) and sweet (for a change) I won’t go into the details of correcting the information but you can read it here from Snopes or get the information straight from Heineken. As you can see by that link, this goes straight to their homepage where they have this displayed for the whole world to see. THEY DID NOT SPONSOR A DOGFIGHT.
The website http://www.snopes.com is one that debunks myths and gives the correct information on all of those urban legends, fake press releases from the police or FBI, and dodgy photos claiming to be real (when actually doctored), or with incorrect information associated with it just like this Heineken one.
Sadly, I visit Snopes on almost a daily basis to find out if claims like whether cocaine shaped like lollies is being passed around in Western Sydney primary schools, stickers are being put on houses of dog owners in Perth to inform “dog-nappers” of the type of dogs living there to steal, or the latest way in which rapists are approaching their victims are true. There are too many vigilantes out there ready to share or retweet false information. And for what? To punish big business? To be a crime fighting hero? To be a fountain of information? You want to be a fountain of information? Go ahead, share these false allegations and urban myths. But let me tell you this; your fountain is spraying nothing more than muddy water.
So the next time you see one of your friends share something like this, Google it. If they are sharing a story about a girl who was killed by classmates and her ghost now haunts them and will haunt you unless you share the story, simply Google “Snopes dead girl ghost” or something along those lines using keywords from the story and I am sure you’ll find out if it is true or not. (Don’t get me started on that whole “are ghosts even real?” subject…)
And if someone is suggesting you boycott a product or company because of ANY REASON, go to Google and check it out. And if Snopes or one of their contemporaries (like Truth or Fiction, Hoax Slayer, Urban Legends) isn’t on top of it, go to the website of the product or company and see what they have to say on the topic. Most large corporations have people scouring the internet, searching through all of the social media looking out for bogus attacks on them. And they have to keep on at it. Whilst the original photo of the dogfight hit the internet in April 2012, it was followed up on mass with people sharing the false information in August/September 2012, December 2012 and just this week in May 2013.
As I was writing this blog I went onto Twitter and searched for “Heineken Dogfight” to see how widespread it was on that social media outlet and saw that the company’s official Twitter account had only posted another tweet in their defence a few hours earlier.
Now I’m happy to include this disclaimer; I am NOT a drinker of Heineken myself, but one of my good friends is AND he is very passionate about stamping out cruelty to animals. Sadly (and he already acknowledged his mistake) his passion for this overrode his own sense of reason (he too is a regular visitor to Snopes) and he erroneously shared this. And for once, I am happy that someone did share some false information as it was just enough to tip me over the edge and want to write about it.
And so I go back to the beginning of this blog to reiterate my opening line; passing on this incorrect information is slander or defamation. And if rightly convicted of such, you can be liable for forking out a huge payout. Sure I am not expecting Heineken to go after all of those bedroom vigilantes who have defamed them in order to get huge amounts of money from them. That’s not Heineken’s game. What they are in existence for is making beer (and a fine beer I’m sure).
So here’s my suggestion to you; if you passed on this false information, I want you to have a Heineken as your next alcoholic beverage. And if you’re not a beer drinker, why not go and buy a Coke as I am sure you forwarded that email to everyone in your address book with all the false information about Coca-Cola’s product.
Or maybe buy a McDonald’s Hot Apple Pie….
Do you have friends that keep posting urban legends on their social media accounts or email you with ridiculous claims within or unworthy protests to become part of? And what are some of the “favourite” urban myths you have heard?