The Internet is truth’s greatest ally and enemy

It’s amazing how quickly you can share the truth and rumors online these days, so please be careful. This is especially the case when you’re dealing with a company or a person’s reputation. Take for example, the latest corporate victim: BP.

Granted, there aren’t too many people looking upon the giant petroleum company as a victim given the oil catastrophe playing out in the Gulf of Mexico. But on Facebook last night, someone shared what was supposedly a BP ad from 1999 that showed the company’s logo and the tagline, “We’re bringing oil to American shores.”

My first reaction was the same as my friend on Facebook, who summed it up with the usual “OMG” and “WTF” exclamations because it was so unbelievable. And then it hit me rather quickly: this was too unbelievable to be true. I decided to click on the logo to go to the original post. It was on Alltop, having been fed from a University of Oregon professor’s blog. Sure enough, people were commenting on it, noting that the logo wasn’t the one BP was using in 1999, so it’s unlikely this was real. Further research with just a few clicks and I found out it was an attempt at humor by a T-shirt company.

BP's logo, 1979-2000

The worst part is that the Alltop post alone has nearly 11,000 views and it’s unknown how many people have talked about it, shared it via social networks or expressed their outrage in comments sections without bothering to think for themselves.

Looking back, two things made me doubt the validity of the piece within seconds of my first reaction. First, I knew that BP’s logo used to have just the company’s initials. A lot of people might not have been immediately aware of that, however, so think about what else might be wrong. This is an oil company, sure, but how many of their customers thought of them that way before the Gulf fiasco began? We’d more likely think of them as selling us gasoline, and they’d hardly use “bringing oil” in some type of campaign.

So, please, think of all the famous quotes and axioms when you go to share something online:

You have two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you speak.

Measure twice, cut once.

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see.

The truth is out there.

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

When in doubt leave it out.

Just the facts please, ma’am.

It’s so easy to spread false information online, but there are resources available to help you do the right thing. Thanks to sites like Wikipedia, Snopes and, of course, the all-powerful Google, you’ll find the good, the bad and the ugly of truth and lies. Of course, it’s a lot harder to get people to listen to the truth since it is rarely as titillating as a rumor. After all, “the plain truth” and “the hard facts” have a tough time being as interesting as a “juicy rumor.” But try to do your best. Someone’s reputation and credibility is on the line — and so is yours.

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One comment on “The Internet is truth’s greatest ally and enemy

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Internet is truth’s greatest ally and enemy « Here Comes Later -- Topsy.com

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