If something says “please copy and paste to share”

If you see something presented as information (as opposed to opinion, fictional story, joke etc) along with “please copy and paste”, ask yourself: what is served by copy and pasting, thus erasing the source?

There are valid reasons for asking people to copy and paste before sharing to obscure the sources of some things. Some common reasons include:

  • Managing distribution of information about protests and similar activities where the source can become a target of law enforcement, but many copy and pasted sources are more than law enforcement can do anything productive with.
  • Minimizing spectator influx when something on Facebook gets shared beyond the sphere of people you’re up for interacting with.
  • Getting past the shared-with-friends wall set by the poster of something you’d like to share.

The first of these is likely to include information that, by its nature, can’t easily be confirmed. The latter two have no reason not to have sources. Included sources. If you see “please share by copy and paste” on information without sources, ask yourself:

  • Can I verify this information?
  • If I am unable to verify, is it worth sharing on the off chance that it is misinformation?

Not that actually sharing the original post makes that info good. But sharing an original post with the “share” button, or sharing a link to it, gives a source for that info. If you copy and paste it, you take responsibility as another source of that info.

This specific method of info transmission without source caught on over the course of the last year and is now used all. The. Damn. Time. And I have seen so many of these that are easily verifiable as false. An easy way to check is often to search the first sentence on Google. That involves copy and pasting too. An extra copy and paste. Two extras, if you do the right thing and upon verifying that the thing is true, you paste a link to a reputable source along with your Facebook (or whatever) copy and paste. If it’s bad info, hey, copy and paste the source disputing it into a comment on your friend’s post. Don’t even have to type words.

Who benefits when you share inflammatory misinformation and outright lies?

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