So my friend (at least I thought he was my friend), Rick, sends me this link on Facebook, to help me take off the weight I put on over the holidays. I mean, ouch, right? (Rick later claimed a “virus” made him do it.)
So, I click on the link. And not only because I’m an idiot, but because I’m a curious idiot. I mean, maybe I did put on a little weight over the holidays. Who wouldn’t like to lose that last five or ten pounds? Okay, maybe fifteen.
The site is all about Acai berries and colon cleanses and, wouldn’t you know, I’ve been invited to a meeting—that isn’t going to happen anywhere! I think that would be the best kind of meeting. In general, I dislike meetings as much as I dislike projects, so when I heard I’d been invited to a special meeting to learn how I could lose weight with Acai berries and colon purges and that the meeting was never going to happen, I was thrilled. What a time saver. I think of all the meetings my poor husband has to go to for his job. I think this new concept of scheduling meetings knowing they will never happen, virtual meetings, will really catch-on in the business world. Not that my husband doesn’t love the meetings his boss schedules. :-)
But what really upset me about all of this is not that my former friend Rick thinks I’m fat or that someone’s holding an Acai berry meeting that isn’t ever going to happen, but the link within the link that, yes, I clicked on, because maybe I’m an even bigger idiot than I thought. But, what upset me about this new link, is that it was to the “NEWS 6” web page. And here’s where we get to my point, finally. So on this “NEWS 6” webpage there’s a picture of a very cute blonde reporter who is also very thin and she swears she lost thirty pounds in two weeks on this Acai berry and colon blow diet—without exercising and by eating everything she wanted. Oh man, I thought, this is too good to be true! But, before I tried to sign-up, because here’s where I stopped being an idiot and where the former investigative journalist in me rose her ugly (at least I didn’t’ say fat) head to say, Hey, wait a minute here. Something’s just not right. Even though the site had a before-and-after photo of a former fat girl, and it had the icons from CNN and MSNBC and other news channels, even FOX, that made it look all authentic, it still felt wrong.
Where was this NEWS 6 TV station that sent out its reporter undercover to lose weight with Acai Berries? Most news websites have their cities plastered all over the top—ABC-7 NEWS CHICAGO, is what some of them say. After skimming through this reporter’s unbelievable story, I Googled her. And got only one hit. For the website I was on, dailydietnewstoday.com, which had I read the web address more closely in the first place, should have tipped me off. When I went back to the NEWS 6 website, I noticed the fine print at the bottom, that the dailydietnews people were not in any way affiliated with CNN or MSNBC, or even FOX, but considering 22,000 Facebook people signed up to go to the non-meeting, the whole incident has given me pause.
Yes, the bogus NEWS 6 website has been taken down now, but for a while there it fooled a lot of people and this scares me no small amount, especially in an age where we’re watching our newspapers get thinner and thinner, ever closer to disappearing completely. Our entire system of government is predicated on the existence of the Fourth Estate and with the anonymity of the Internet it’s so easy to deceive people. I mean, I could maybe not actually be a city mom, but live on a farm in Wisconsin somewhere. Think about the serious implications of that!
But this is what really scares me: that someone would go through so much effort, use the real logos of real news agencies to serve up bogus “news” on the Internet in order to sell a product. As more and more of us get our real news on the web, what does this portend? I don’t know how hard or easy it will be in the future for us to discern the real news from the fake news on the Internet, thinking about it gives me a virus, but I do know this: I haven’t shed an ounce of my holiday weight while drinking this Acai berry tea.