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Monday, December 5, 2022
Editorial: Dont let social media spread misinformation

Social media is a wonderful resource for spreading news and information and connecting with the community. Every media organization, including The Lake Report, relies on social media to help disseminate the news.

It is a great tool that expedites the sharing of relevant issues and helps create a well-informed, intelligent public – when used judiciously.

This week, I stood witness as social media gave a platform to the rapid spread of misinformation. It’s not a new phenomenon, but when it happens, speculation and rumours are often touted as fact. He said, she said stands in for a reliable source when quick-to-type keyboard warriors opt for posting their best guess about a situation before waiting for the facts.

Of course, not every NOTLer posting on social media jumped to conclusions or used the medium to gripe about perceived slights on this earth-shaking topic: After all, it seemed free parking in Old Town during the month of December had been cancelled.

It’s understandable that residents were frustrated at not having the facts in a timely manner. I agree that, after reading the town’s posting about parking enforcement for the month of December, people deserved answers. The public was confused.

That’s why as soon as The Lake Report heard about enforced parking this December, we immediately reached out to town staff, council and the chamber for answers. We, like you, wanted to know why there wouldn’t be free parking, as the posting suggested, and what had changed this year.

During our research, we discovered new Chamber of Commerce president Eduardo Lafforgue immediately requested free parking as soon as he learned a formal request was required. It was an oversight he was in a hurry to remedy, he said.

We discovered that council would be taking the matter to Monday night’s council meeting and a resolution would emerge then. While council supported the idea of free parking, the change requires action by councillors. Due process needs to be followed.

We knew that in order to accurately inform the public, we would need to wait for a resolution and not publish our best guesses at the results. While residents deserve quick answers, it can be irresponsible to publish information without all the facts.

In the meantime, cries of “This isn’t fair!” and “Blame so-and-so!” and even remarks about council being “greedy opportunists” flooded local Facebook groups.

Freedom of expression means many have no fear of voicing an opinion and that certainly can have its place. And while some of the initial questions about  the demise of “free parking” were expressed without rancour, the situation quickly morphed into something else as reckless informants ran wild with possible outcomes and suspected reasoning. All that does is create more confusion and misinformation.

While some may call Monday’s decision a “win” for social media, the resolution was in the works regardless, and social media contributed to the confusion and havoc.

We can’t promise the answer will always come out exactly when you want it, but we can guarantee if an issue is relevant and important for the residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake, The Lake Report will actively pursue the answer.

Bring your concerns to us to find the answer, write a letter to the editor, email us, and, by all means, continue voicing your concerns on social media. But please let’s not spread speculation, opinion and misinformation as fact.