HyperText Essay: Viral Truth: Case Study 2

Crowdsourcing information and harnassing the power of digital networks has had its failures but also it’s success stories. In September 2014, an article in the Age trumpeted the charging of two men on assault charges as a success after CCTV images of them went viral.

NSW Police posted CCTV images of two shirtless men on its Facebook page at 2.30pm on Tuesday 30th, appealing for information into the identity of the pair, wanted for questioning over an alleged assault on Saturday night. Within two hours the Facebook post had reached 180,000 people, was shared more than 1000 times and had collected 490 likes and 370 comments, police said. And soon after the men were charged.

The police here determine the veracity of the information through a series of tests to that information, by comparing it to evidence they acquire from other sources, by interviewing the suspects with questions to corroborate other information. In many ways being truly Network Literate involves a level of police work for digital users, we cannot simply take anything at face value, many people have felt the sting of falling victim to pranking by satirical and parody sites set up to mimic news sites, let astray by false information on Wikipedia, or into the trap of following the crowd on a wild goose chase; we cannot simply take for granted that something is information rather than misinformation based solely on how many people are saying it, instead we must cross check, confirm, try and test all the information we access across the network comparing multiple accounts and views.

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