Check Your Facts!
By mduigou on May 06, 2007
I've taken the time to read the responses to two threads on Slashdot this week. In both cases have been thoroughly discouraged by the huge number of blatant factual errors I found in user posts. Many people would say that considering where the posts were made that seeing gross errors should not be at all surprising. Slashdot is hardly the only place where the inaccurate statements appear. To me, the decrease in attention to factual accuracy seems like a general trend. I'm not talking about errors in "facts" that might even conceivably be in dispute. Weasels are not rodents. Bill Clinton was not the President in 1987. Linux was not the first software to use the GPL license. France and Poland are not adjacent. Each of the preceding can be quite easily be proved from multiple sources with a very high degree of confidence using simple Google and Wikipedia searches. So why don't people check their assertions before posting? It seems to me that obvious and verifiably false statements are becoming more common in public discourse on the Internet (and I've been reading Usenet since 1985 so I've seen a lot of false statements). I'd like to hope it's mere laziness and that it will always be possible to find the truth from credible sources when one cares to do so. Luckily, the absence of "true" facts doesn't seem to be a malicious effort. It seems more a case of people making up their facts to suit whatever argument they are making. If I was more cynical I might think that we're headed for a Colbertesque "fact-free" world where truth doesn't matter.