Andrew Spurridge is CEO of the Internet Watch Foundation, which monitors the veracity of online content. “It will come as quite a surprise to a lot of people”, said Andrew, “but the internet isn’t 100% accurate. Though the overall accuracy of online information is remarkably high, particularly in the areas of alien abduction, white supremacy and 9/11 conspiracy theories, the occasional error still gets past our rigorous fact-checking procedures. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there you are.
“On a website chronicling the sighting of UFOs by hill-billy farmers in Arkansas, for example, we found an unacceptable number of spelling mistakes. And we have had protracted negotiations with the webmaster of the God Hates Fags website, trying to persuade him to tone things down a bit. We suggested ‘God finds the sexual proclivities of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-gendered community a bit iffy, frankly’ might prove less provocative.
“On a Ku Klux Klan appreciation site we found pictures of men in white hoods which appeared to have been appropriated from Flickr, without attribition or payment. And Hitler’s birthday is listed, wrongly, as April 20, 1890, when Wikipedia - the ‘gold standard’ for online infallibility - states categorically that it was 1889. And Hitler didn’t kill ‘six million Jews’; David Irving, the respected historian, is adamant that ‘More women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than in the gas chambers at Auschwitz’. It’s good to be able to clear some of these things up.
“We pressed the ‘I am under 18’ button on the entry page of a porn website (the first time it had ever been done, apparently) and were transferred to a website where cat-owners post pictures of their pets wearing clothes. Now, that can’t be right, can it? We contacted a Robert Paisley, of Akron, Ohio, who blogs about the hassles of working in the fast food industry and his struggle to grow a proper beard. We took him to task over over a photograph in which the face of ‘Friends’ star, Jennifer Aniston, had been Photoshopped onto the body of porn star Jenna Jameson. Oh, and we suggested to Robert that he’d attract a bigger audience for his blog if he just wrote it on his bathroom mirror with shaving foam.
“The price of freedom, in the online world, is eternal vigilence. And here at the foundation we are dedicated to upholding the internet’s unrivalled reputation as a source of reliable information. After all, if you can’t trust the internet, who can you trust?”...