A manifesto for fixing the Internet

Somewhere along the way, “sharing is caring” has been twisted into “sharing is being” and in that process we lost source criticism. It may not be dead yet, but it’s definitely missing.

It’s everywhere.

It’s in the media, where sensationalized headlines are formulated not only to pique our interest, but to provoke that click by tantalizing our imagination without revealing anything.

It’s on Facebook, where images appealing to our humanity, our sense of fairness and decency, are shared by people meaning well but doing harm.

It’s on Twitter, where the always ongoing competition “Who Breaks It First” rewards the one who (re)tweets first and fact checks later.

If you want recent examples of our collective failure, I recommend reading Luke O’Neil’s “The Year We Broke The Internet” or listen to him talk to On The Media’s Bob Garfield about it. The problem is well established, but what is the solution?

To me, it starts with me. I helped break it, so I should help fix it.

My manifesto for fixing the Internet

Be correct rather than fast. I shall not measure my effort by how many times I was first, but by how few times I was incorrect.

Fact check the things I share. Be it images, text updates or links. Snopes, Google, Emergent.info and the Reddit hive-mind shall be my friends.

Correct errors that slip through. Either by retracting (e.g. deleting an erroneous tweet so it can’t be retweeted and writing a new with an explanation) or by transparently correcting (e.g. editing a blog post)

Enable other’s fact checking process. By using Curator’s Code and leaving breadcrumbs I both give credit where it is due and make it easy to trace information backwards. Here’s a CopyPasteCharacter.com set with the Curator’s Code.

Also, remember the Bullshit Prevention Protocol

Never reward sensationalized click baits. Credit where credit is due, except when sensationalizing or click baiting is involved. Even if that video on Upworthy really is worth sharing, I shall share the direct Youtube link and not the Upworthy link, so that I don’t reward headlines like “Within 5 Seconds, You Won’t Like Him. By The Time He Laughs, You’ll Hate Him.”.

Never be the helpful idiot. When someone writes or says something provokingly stupid the reason is more often than not that they thrive off the attention it brings. This is also known as trolling. By writing about American Apparel’s sexist images, you also spread them. In other words, you’re what we in Sweden call “nyttig idiot” (“helpful idiot”). I have a limited amount of time and energy, and I choose to spend it on constructive discussions, not on feeding trolls or helping them get more attention.

If you really, really have to visit or link to troll bait or attentionalist and stupid sites, use the service Unvis.it. This service attempts to hide your visit, so that it doesn’t count towards ad revenue for example.

Always be THAT person. When I see someone stating a fact or sharing something that I suspect is wrong, I shall correct them. Even if it means being that boring guy who ruins the joke or destroys the fantasy. A brilliant example of a great THAT person: PicPedant on Twitter.

No water drop thinks it’s responsible for the flood, but if enough drops did at least we’d have a smaller flood. So I invite you to join me. Promise to follow the manifesto. Spread it. Add to it what you find lacking. Let’s fix the Internet together.

Originally published at my (now defunct) blog on February 12, 2014.