The Peril of Legitimacy


(Jackson Ayres/LHS Peak Press)

As the world continues to stray further into the power of technology, humanity must ask itself:

“What are the true dangers of this power that we’ve created?”

One of the dangers is ever-present in today’s world: False Information.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term “misinformation” has knowingly been around since 1605. It is defined as “false or inaccurate information, especially that which is intended to deceive” in the New Oxford American Dictionary. Misinformation has been a notable threat to the world, and with the recent incident of LHS, it’s even more obvious how dangerous it can be.

On January 10th, 2018, Liberty received threats via SnapChat around midnight. While these threats were later deemed “uncredible,” it still caused quite a ruckus around town. Although not officially declared, a lock-out situation was employed where students were not allowed to leave the building except with parent permission and all entrances were monitored. Most students contacted their family and left school.

According to KKTV, Watson High School was recently in a similar situation. While both the Fountain Police Department and El Paso County’s Sheriff Office deemed this threat uncredible, Stephanie Bartosik, a parent of two Watson students, responded to the report saying, “Am I the only one that thinks that’s the perfect time a distraught student would actually do something harmful, is after everyone says oh don’t worry it’s not credible?… As much as I hate to over think a situation, I definitely feel when it comes to threats of any kind there should always be an over cautious nature at the forefront.”

And she’s absolutely right. The issue with these threats is that “uncredible” information must be treated cautiously, and they often aren’t. Unfortunately, in Liberty’s case, parents were given no option to keep their child at home— they weren’t alerted until later that day that the school would be in a lockout situation before classes began, with many parents only finding out via the news or text messages from their students. Teachers didn’t learn the details until after school, leaving teachers unable to comfort their students when asked what was going on. These “false” threats can be taken advantage of by anyone wanting to inflict harm.

Sadly, false information has been present for centuries. It is more worthy of attention now due to the power of social media— words can be spread in literally minutes, if they’re powerful enough. There is already a surplus of false information on the internet, and it is a user’s responsibility to determine what is true or what is false. Sometimes though, it is difficult to determine what is true. The case of LHS was one of those situations where it was cumbersome to verify the validity of the data.

To spot falsified information on the internet, consider these points from the National Public Radio’s website…

  • Social Media/Opinion

Social media is the breeding group for falsified information. Posts usually grab the user’s attention, and they’re drawn out or exaggerated typically in disreputable sources. If comments in a post or group are sketchy, use caution. — relate to our situation, twitter, MHS

  • The quotation situation

Often in articles or blogs, quotes from reputable sources are included. If there’s a lack of said quotes, the information present is probably false. Many have multiple sources from professionals, with expertise in the topic contained in the article of blog.

  • “About Us” of companies

Most companies have a lot of backstory, and that’s usually included in the “About Us” section of their website. The section normally contains who owns and runs the company, leaders within the company, and their ethics/missions to complete. If there’s any melodramatic or overblown word choice here, be skeptical. It’s best to know the most someone can about their source before trusting it.

Disclaimer: Even though there are techniques to determine the validity of information, situations that involve threats should be taken seriously until anything is confirmed and verified. Inform a trusted adult, or use the Safe2Tell Program.

In this world, misinformation is a grave danger to anyone with access to that information. It can mislead people, and sometimes put lives in danger.