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Misinformation can be harmful. What are we going to do about it?

What is misinformation?

Bad information. You know, the sort of information coming intentionally or accidentally from friends or enemies that might harm us in some way. It can harm us in some very small way, like following directions to go left when we really need to go right. It might be life-changing. It might be deadly, like being told that we can smoke cigarettes and not fear the threat of lung cancer. Misinformation is harmful information because it is false.

One key component to all of this involves something that we’ve avoided discussing until now. The elephant in the room, per se. It is a question that relates to the ancient wisdoms of philosophy and to the manipulative tactics of propaganda artists. What is misinformation?

What is potentially harmful information?

This is one of the most challenging things for all of us to realize. Really bad misinformation is information that we can know with high certainty that the information caused more harm than good. The recent examples in the news regarding preventing the spread of COVID-19 is a good example and it provides a nice illustration that even if only a small percentage of people believe in the bad information, it can potentially harm many other people. Like beliefs suggesting that vaccines cause autism have caused people to avoid vaccinations, thereby exposing their family and the whole of society to outbreaks of harmful diseases. The existence and spread of misinformation is something that can harm more than those who are ‘infected’ by it, and might never even see the harm they are doing to others by hosting and spreading the misinformation.

Another example of potentially harmful information is something that distracts us from potentially useful information. If you know about the concept of ‘opportunity cost,’ you’ll get this right away. What this means is if we are spending our precious resource of time on something that is more likely to be incorrect than it is to be correct, then we may be missing out on opportunities where we can find accurate information to build with. When we can better figure out what is closer to accurate information, we can take more effective steps in using that information to make life better for ourselves and for those around us.

Should we avoid all potentially dishonest information?

Quite simply, no. Here’s why. Our immune systems can ‘learn’ to be stronger against some specific communicable diseases, and this strength may actually be carried over to protect us from other communicable diseases. Eliminating all potential threats to our body prevents its natural ‘antifragility’ enabling us to become stronger. Similarly, eliminating our exposure to potentially all dishonest information will not help us become ‘stronger.’ Because we may have shied away from the ability to detect potentially harmful or incorrect information in our lack of exposure to it, we may become more susceptible to it. Such is a problem with echo chambers where the information that we have might receive enhanced attention. There is another very important reason why we should avoid complete isolation from potentially dishonest information. We might not necessarily know what information is truly dishonest until we can evaluate it effectively. Blinding ourselves to the potentially inaccurate information that others might vehemently believe in does not necessarily protect us from this inaccurate information. It might also have elements of truth to it that we can use to make the information more accurate and more useful for others.

Why The Honest Majority?

Not too often are noble pursuits of life directly encouraged because of the value they bring to all of us. The Honest Majority champions what many may have forgotten: with honesty we can create better lives for ourselves and for others. THM focuses on decreasing the amount of misinformation that is created at each connection point by:

  1. Promoting the value that honesty can bring to each of us.

  2. Encouraging honest communication and understanding of the world.

  3. Reminding us that we’re all trying to do what we can to survive and to thrive in the challenges of life.

Who is working for THM?

We are a team of everyday people. We see the possibility that each of us can dispel dangerous misinformation, which leads to more of us being able to recognize misinformation. We see dangers looming should dishonesty intrude further into humanity’s communication capacity.

Do you already support THM?

If you do what you can to be honest with yourself, trying to as accurately as possible see the world as it might be seen, you are already helping to create The Honest Majority.

We hope you are too.

Let us know how we can be more effectively honest!

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