Earlier this month, Tom MacMaster, A US graduate student living in Edinburgh was ousted as being the author of the Gay Girl in Damascus blog.
For those of you who missed the story, the blog was seemingly written by a 35 year old Syrian lesbian living in Damascus called Amina. The first post was written on the 19th March when uprisings were spreading from Tunisia and Egypt to other Arab Nations, including Syria. She proclaimed herself an activist against the government and this, combined with the fact the author was a female and gay, gave a unique perspective on developments inside the country. Because of this, the blog garnered a large following both in Syria and abroad.
When it was discovered that the author was not Amina, but MacMaster, there was an outcry. People felt they had put themselves at risk in endorsing the blog and taking a stand against the government in support of this person.
I understand some of the arguments as to why what MacMaster did was wrong. However, this story reinforces the fact that you cannot trust everything on the internet.
I can create a blog, a Twitter profile, Facebook account, email address and be whoever I want to be.
Take this blog; maybe my name isn’t Liz Backhouse. My name could be Simon Flint, but choose to write under a female name in the belief it will help readers connect with the posts better. Unless you are standing behind me, watching me type, you won’t ever know with absolute certainty that the online author name matches my name.
Does this mean the internet is evil? No. It means that you should not believe everything you read, or that your social media buddies recommend to you. We are sometimes too quick to latch on to a story and in a world of Twitter and Facebook, that information spreads like wildfire whether it is true or not. We also have an obligation to not knowingly spread false information that could bring harm.
The internet is a great resource – let’s make sure we keep it that way.
Have you been taken in by false information on the internet? Let us know about your experiences.