The most dangerous misinformation on the Internet begins with a few bits of truth.
In the case of a photo with Traverse City ties that went viral during the holiday weekend, the first truth was the underlying photo itself — an image of a sunken boat shot in June by local diver Dusty Klifman and published in the Traverse City Record-Eagle alongside an article about a mishap that sank the vessel.
The second truth was that some boats participating in a parade on a Texas lake in support of President Donald Trump were scuttled in rough weather during the weekend.
All the rest was a recipe for misinformation.
Luckily, whomever altered the image and set it loose in the swirl of internet social media did a pretty poor job. The flagpole and “Trump 2020” flag added to the sunken boat were pretty obviously fake to most who viewed the image as it swept through Twitter and Facebook posts and shares worldwide.
Still, the viral image was enough to draw the attention of national and international publications — and the Record-Eagle — to correct the record, and ensure nobody could be duped into believing it’s real.
But that image should serve as a warning to us all. The speed at which it circulated and the relatively simple process of whipping a pair of truths together into a potentially believable lie is a reality we watch unfold on a daily basis in the digital world that permeates our lives.