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Nancy Shonka Padberg

Ms. Padberg is a former Fortune 500 Times Mirror executive, Integrated Marketing Communications Vice President and MBA graduate from the Graziadio School of Business & Management at Pepperdine University. Ms. Padberg has over 17 years of publishing and marketing expertise, served on several boards, is a guest speaker, published author, former Big 12 golfer and resides in Santa Monica.

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How Misinformation is Unintentionally Spread Over the Internet

How Misinformation is Unintentionally Spread Over the Internet

We all receive emails alerting us about a computer virus spreading across the Internet, or a 'can't miss' stock market tip, or scandalous information about a political candidate running for high office, or, most of the time, information about a deal that seems just too good to be true.

Your inclination, of course, is to immediately share the information with your family and friends. You select the names and hit the forward button-off the message goes to help others. You're feeling pretty good about yourself knowing that you're helping family and friends by sharing this nugget of vital information.Good intentions aside, however, more often than not the information you just sent is erroneous and, on more occasions then you might think, is outright and deliberately false.

Here's an example:
Recently, I received from a very level-headed friend an email containing urgent information about, of all things, "baby carrots." The email's subject line pronounced "Baby Carrots: Beware" dealt with a stern warning by an unnamed farmer against eating baby carrots.

The following is information from this unidentified farmer, who grows and packages carrots for IGA, METRO, LOBLAWS, and similar food outlets.

The warning, says my friend, appeared on Snoopes.com. She assumed the information was accurate and forwarded the email to her friends and family.The email asserts "once the carrots are cut and shaped into cocktail carrots they are dipped in a solution of water and chlorine in order to preserve them (this is the same chlorine used your pool) since they do not have their skin or natural protective covering, they give them a higher dose of chlorine."

The warning went on to say "You will notice that once you keep these carrots in your refrigerator for a few days, a white covering will form on the carrots, this is the chlorine which resurfaces. At what cost do we put our health at risk to have esthetically pleasing vegetables which are practically plastic?"

The email urged me to pass on the information to as many people as possible in the hopes of informing them as to where the carrots came from and how they are processed. "Chlorine is a very well known carcinogen," it warned.

A bit leery of the allegation, I opted not to forward the message.

The very next day a second email arrived from my friend. But this time to recant her assertion about the dangers of baby carrots and offered a genuine apology to the people she had sent the message."Sorry about this," she said ruefully. "My cousin [name intentionally omitted] checked this out on Snoops and it turns out this story is not true. I don't want to hurt [somebody's] business with false claims."

The lesson to be learned: Never forward an email about information than can not be verified by a reputable source, preferably one that is nationally recognized.

I still have great respect for my well-intentioned friend. And I know she learned a very valuable lesson.

 

 

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