Misinformation abounds in Internet age - The Packer

Misinformation abounds in Internet age

11/08/2013 11:10:00 AM
Amelia Freidline

Amelia Freidline, Copy EditorAmelia Freidline, Copy EditorI was browsing the news online recently when one teaser headline on The Huffington Post caught my attention: “This may make you never want to eat a banana again.”

“Oh great,” I thought. “What’s it going to be — an anti-GMO screed? ‘Bananas as we know them will not exist in 20 years’? They’re a child choking hazard?”

As it turns out, it was none of those. It seems a woman in England was eating a banana when she noticed a strange white spot on the peel, which on closer examination proved to be a sac full of tiny spiders.

Her local pest control firm told her they were Brazilian wandering spiders, also known as banana spiders because they live in banana trees in South America.

According to the article, Brazilian wandering spiders are thought to be the deadliest spiders in the world.

Fortunately the woman and her family were not bitten, and the store where she purchased the fruit paid for the family’s hotel stay while their home was fumigated to prevent any possibility of banana spider infestation.

All’s well that ends well.

Or is it?

The article received, at most recent count, 716 comments. I read through the first 50 and they were a mixture of complaints about the headline and accompanying video, facts about poisonous spiders (and other deadly critters), comments from arachnophobes, comments from people who didn’t like bananas, and facts about the more unusual properties of wandering spider venom.

Then there were the people who said they’d check all their bananas carefully in the store from now on, they’d store their bananas in air-tight bags to suffocate potential spiders, they would not eat bananas again, or “Thank goodness Wal-Mart’s bananas come from China.”

Of course the Internet is full of stories that employ sensationalism or scare tactics to get people to click on them — obviously it worked for me — so it’s a waste of time and energy to get worked up over every little bit of subtle misinformation.

What this reminded me of was the explosion of Internet hysteria that used to surround the Environmental Working Group’s annual “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists.

For a while it seemed like every news organization ran a story warning about “produce with the most pesticides” or “foods you should always buy organic.”

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