Social media propaganda deepens divisions -- let's unite around the facts instead (Editorial)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - This editorial isn't about guns. It's not about taking a side. It's not about that topic at all.

I've talked about It; we as a nation are talking about it, and that's a good thing.

This is about a lie. Here's one of the Parkland High School survivors, Emma Gonzalez, ripping up a gun-target poster.

Maybe you like it, maybe you don't. But that's the real picture. It appeared in the magazine Teen Vogue.

Here's what went viral: a doctored image of Gonzalez, This time it made her look like she was ripping up the Constitution.

This is just one example of what's lurking out there, ready to enrage you, ready to deepen valleys between people as we discuss issues that impact our very existence.

In our newsroom, a reporter or a producer writes a story. They document sources. That story is read by an Executive Producer or a Digital Manager, and if there's doubt then the News Director may get involved, too. Past that we even have attorneys look at stories when they make serious accusations, or put peoples' reputations or jobs at risk.

With all those filters and fail-safes, with a room full of people who took journalism classes, we still -- sometimes -- make mistakes.

But out on social media, there aren't any safeguards at all. No filters, no editors, no responsibility--and it shows. Who knows who originally posted this lie, and who knows what their motivations are.

The doctored photo also put dark circles under her eyes, I guess to make her look more ominous. What's more ominous than that, is our society's willingness to believe anything that's shown to them.

We have to be better than this. Most news outlets are trying very hard to meet those standards. Look to them - even if they aren't Cleveland 19, but not to unvetted sources on your social media.

You wouldn't listen to a random guy yelling on your local street corner, so why would you do it online?

Copyright 2018 WOIO. All rights reserved.