Spread of misinformation is dangerous to society


Photographer: Liam

Taylor Moore

People’s lives are spread across social media accounts, Facebook to Instagram, Twitter to Tiktok. Discussing all the pros and cons of social media is a task equivalent to that of breathing on Mars, but one specific issue has become apparent: the spread of misinformation. 

Misinformation is not the same as disinformation or “fake news”. Misinformation is simply information spread that is wrong, regardless of whether or not it is purposefully misleading. Disinformation is more like propaganda, being purposely twisted or manipulated to be incorrect. False news is just information fabricated to mimic that of mainstream news, but false. Problems with the circulation of information on social media usually fall into the misinformation category. 

One example is the case of Saraya Rees in Myrtle Point, Oregon, which spread like wildfire on Tiktok and Instagram. Her story seemed like a straightforward case of a young girl’s mental illnesses going unaided, and the girl being ruthlessly punished for it. Apparently in a psychotic break, fourteen-year-old Rees was apprehended and charged after her mother called the police, claiming that Rees had poured gasoline throughout the house and was threatening to set it all alight. Rees was then sentenced to 11 years in prison instead of receiving mental health help. “Justice for Saraya Rees” was seen all over, just until the Myrtle Point police released a statement condemning almost every part of the story that was held as facts. This statement claims that the aforementioned prison sentence is no more than a recommendation applicable until at most the age of 25. During this sentence, Rees would receive help and treatment for any mental disorder she may have. Despite this, details are difficult to find because of all the reports around the case, however, one thing remains true: the media only helped muddy the waters further. 

People weren’t spreading Rees’ name because they wanted chaos. They genuinely believed what they were doing was helpful. However, because of the methods by which information was spread on social media, every detail was so watered down and convoluted that the story was completely different from where it started. 

Saraya Rees isn’t the only example of information being spread through a warped game of telephone. Political statements, COVID-19 news, issues on topics such as race and sexuality, even direct quotes can be misinterpreted through the grapevine that is social media.

Social media is a great way for people to connect and for information to be spread, it’s just important to remember that for information to get to your device, it has to pass through a labyrinth of rumors, exaggerations, and gossip first. It’s best to just check what you read and not believe anything at first glance.