Captain, the Fake News Detectors are Offline!

Slate has a good article about William “Captain Kirk” Shatner’s involvement with a Twitter incident that involved Autism Speaks, the alleged connection between vaccines and autism, and the ready availability of easily Googled but unreliable “information.”

Shatner is a celebrity, which means that he has outsized influence. That he would use his platform to lend credibility to such sites, spreading them to 2.5 million followers, could have terrible consequences. Shatner has made his support of vaccination very clear, but NaturalNews has tons of “articles” demonizing vaccinations—an example is a video titled “Vaccine Cannibalism Exposed.” But there’s an upside: The real-time tweeting of his thought process provides a helpful window into the practices of everyday intelligent people trying to figure out the truth. They Google, they find a few articles that confirm their biases, and they’re done. No matter that the articles are on websites that spread virulent misinformation. What look like dead giveaways of quackery for some go completely unnoticed. This is instructive, even if it’s frustrating. | It’s unfortunate that Shatner is now on the receiving end of a lot of outrage because of a few misinformed tweets. At the same time, celebrities wield tremendous power, and to be cliché about it, that comes with some responsibility. –Source: Salon, What we can learn from William Shatner’s tweets.