The copy-paste problem


Larry Tesler (2007)

Lawrence Gordon Tesler (April 4, 1945 – February 16, 2020) was an American computer scientist who worked in the field of human–computer interaction. Tesler worked at Xerox PARC, Apple, Amazon, and Yahoo! (Source: Wikipedia)

Hardly anyone knows him, but everyone with any kind of computer uses his probably most important invention: copy-paste, the copying and pasting of texts, pictures etc.

While this invention has undoubtedly brought enormous benefits, from a simple increase in productivity and job satisfaction to the faster dissemination of information, it has also brought us one of the biggest problems of our time: the dissemination of false information and disinformation at lightning speed and worldwide.

Because it is so easy to copy information, rewrite it a little and output it as one’s own text, it is rarely possible to trace the source of the information. This makes it difficult to critically verify its truthfulness.

Whoever then makes the equally widespread mistake of thinking that something is widespread, be it true, quickly becomes the victim of simple misunderstandings, deliberately invented misinformation and/or deliberately controlled disinformation campaigns. If everyone copies everyone uncritically, even the greatest nonsense will quickly spread.

There is only one thing that helps here: remain critical and do not believe everything you find on the Internet. The truth content of information can only be checked if you know the original source and critically analyse its credibility and the truth content of the original information.

So instead of pressing copy-paste on the next news item that triggers a “Wow, I didn’t know that yet” – or a “Yes, I suspected that for a long time” – we recommend taking a deep breath first. Then search for the original source of all information contained in the text and check it critically. Only after this critical review is it advisable to do it like Larry Tesler.

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