Panama papers posts potentially problematic

With public discussion of the so-called Panama papers reaching fever pitch, I think it’s time to take a breather and reconsider a basic principle of every college student’s educational career: consider the source.

Make no mistake, the documents currently in the hands of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists contain some potent information. Iceland is currently scrambling to replace prime minister David Gunnlaugsson after his legally dubious offshore holdings were published.

But the documents also open up a Pandora’s box of problems when it comes to social media and casual conversation. While several high-profile headlines have emerged from legitimate, corroborated sources, many outlandish stories are circulating with the term Panama papers tacked on as an afterthought.

Between private conversation, eavesdropping on campus and checking far too many social media posts over the weekend, I’ve been told everyone from Hulk Hogan to Barack Obama has offshore bank accounts.

Misinformation spreads like a virus, latching onto a host (usually someone’s ill-informed relative on Facebook or somebody obsessed with sharing “gotcha” information in conversation) from which it propagates itself like wildfire.

If only there was a large portion of the population who have spent the last few years of their life writing research papers and training their ability to critically think and evaluate sources when forming opinions.

Oh, wait, I’ve just described college students.

Take the time to vet whatever interesting information comes along. It might take a little time, but it’s most certainly worth the effort.

Consider the Panama papers.

Unlike the massive dumps of information posted on WikiLeaks in the past, which usually start big and loud but fizzle out, this leak is being taken slowly and methodically. Hundreds of experienced journalists are picking apart the information and checking to see if there are any facts to backup the documents.

The next time a shocking headline pops up on Facebook or a friend recounts a shocking fact they read in “the news” that morning, take the time to do a simple Google search. It’ll save everyone the hassle of looking like a bunch of Gunnlaugssons when dirty laundry is aired down the line.