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Misinformation at the Speed of Light

Two unconnected events happened today, which demonstrate how powerful the Internet is as an interactive medium.

The first event: The death of Russell Crowe.

Less than two minutes after I saw the initial posting (which was claimed a fake by an astute reader almost immediately), the news feeds clogged with proclamations of his untimely demise.

The person who cried foul in the initial post I read was correct. He pointed out that the source for this information was a site dedicated to auto generating fake news (it said so at the bottom of the same document that stated his death!)

It took about 5 minutes before people started to question the rumor. A representative of his made a statement that he was not dead and the time of death was not consistent with his latest tweet. Of most interest to me was that I did not see anyone else cite the original source of the material.

This event clearly supports the recent survey I read on student research, which discovered that students determined information credibility overwhelmingly by search ranking! So much for information integrity.

The second Event: The Google Background

My first click of the day was a shocker – Google had followed Bing’s lead by putting up a background image on the default search page. I shuddered and moved on with my day.

At work, I listened as each co-worker started his or her day with the discovery. Everyone’s first question was “How do I turn this off?”

I was not surprised to find out that “remove Google background” became the hottest trending search term, until the Russell Crowe news surfaced.

Google no longer has the background image.

This event is a great example of direct democracy in action.

The Lesson?

I introduce this idea to clients in our first meeting, so it makes me happy to have two new examples of support. Management of your company brand is vitally important to its success. You have three seconds to put your best foot forward with your website, or they are on to the next site. When you do stumble, you need to correct the problem immediately. Not in the next week, day or event hour, but the next minute.

The more astute business owners get this, but almost everyone forgets to take it one step further. Maintenance of your personal brand is also vital. When someone is considering you or your company, it is likely that he or she will Google your name.  What will they find? Does this reflect well on you?

Finally, I am mostly shocked that Russell Crowe’s Media Relations person did not wake him up and ask him to tweet an update to his 37,851 followers! In my opinion, someone needs to get fired.

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