As you have probably already heard, the international hacker group Anonymous has alleged that a local politician has hate group connections.
This is not information anyone should be spreading.
While Anonymous–and the websites that published this information–should not be wholesale dismissed, it is patently unfair for newspapers, magazines, blogs, and, yes you, individuals, to further share this “information.” Until there is more rock solid research backing up this incredible allegation, to share it is akin to shouting fire in a crowded theater.
It’s simply not the right thing to do.
The way the Internet has democratized ‘news’ is a great thing, generally. We all now have a voice. But that means we all have a voice. It is far too easy for someone to “publish” an insane allegation. From there the headline-hungry news cycle takes over. They call the accused for a quote—- and bam, forevermore, that person, innocent or guilty, is forever attached to unspeakable sin.
Anyone can try to ruin anyone in the Google age. We all need to be aware of the role we play in these dangerous games.
I speak from experience.
The situations aren’t perfect corollaries, but after I ran for Norfolk City Council I was nominated for school board. Members of the establishment were still bitter about my challenging their authority, so they enlisted Vice Mayor Anthony Burfoot to, essentially, call me a racist by citing a poem I wrote in grad school which he grossly–and I think disingenuously–misinterpreted. He called the paper, who called me for a quote. Bam. They ran something. It somewhat Internet blew up from there; The Huffington Post ran something.
And now–and forever–because some fool threw out some bullshit, my Google search will always be tarnished by the dark sides of the Internet and the news cycle.
Maybe this politician is part of a hate group. Maybe he isn’t. But anyone deserves better than to have an allegation so poison spread without more due process.
Please don’t share this “news” that is currently dominating local social media. You never know when somebody will have a bone to pick with you, and you’ll want an ethical reaction from your community as well.
UPDATE, via Newsweek: Anonymous Denies List of KKK Members after Politicians Respond