When I titled my last post I was aware of the Pixels video’s tremendously quick web saturation — I mean, that thing was all over geek and civilian sites in, like, seconds. I also noted (parenthetically) that the filmmaker’s name did not appear on the website of the production house he was e-rumored to belong to. Well, by the end of Friday my inclinations proved intuitively on-target: pirate versions of the video abounded, along with rampant false information on the auteur’s affiliation. I received an email from the studio responsible for Pixels asking me to correct any inaccurate information here. Of course I did so, and then wished them luck taming the rest of the internet.
It was a vivid microcosmic example of what happens — or at least could happen — on the web every day. The speed of information and the widespread lack of accountability, not to mention the commonly-occurring conflict between getting it early and getting it right, makes it way too easy to transform a flippant remark or malicious misinformation into a virtually unstoppable digital zeitgeist. For my part in this instance, I wrestled with some cognitive dissonance as a writer trying to keep up with the informational tide who also nurses a once-a-fact-checker-always-a-fact-checker’s discomfort with unverified information. In the end I compromised, deciding that the issue at hand — right studio/wrong studio — wasn’t such a big deal if I fucked it up and opting for timeliness with a weak disclaimer. The fact that I wavered at all, and whether or not others did, is immaterial; bad news travels as fast as good news and wrong news, and we’re the ones who set all of it in motion. We, meaning anyone who writes on the web, meaning basically anyone.
So if this is some sort of Internet parable, then what’s the lesson? Ideally: that people ought to take extra time and attention to minimize the trafficking of false or inaccurate material on the web. Realistically: This is the way things are and they’re not likely to change, so always remember to have some salt with your surfing.