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Community advocate highlights importance of 'responsible sharing' in the digital age

Finding accurate information on social media can be difficult, but community leaders say they're dedicated to getting in front of misinformation before it spreads.
Posted at 5:27 AM, Jan 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-26 06:27:45-05

FOX CITIES (NBC 26) — It's National News Literacy Week, and we're highlighting the importance of sharing accurate information as our communication tools like cellphones and laptops are updated daily.

It's also no secret, more people are turning to social media to stay informed.

So, I connected with the administrator of a couple neighborhood scanner Facebook pages to learn how he stays ahead of sharing wrong information that can sometimes spiral out of control on social media.

"The biggest challenge being kind of that, like making sure what you're posting and what you're hearing is accurate. There's a lot of times - we have a chat group between the admins where we'll talk, and we'll say, "Did I just hear that correctly," said Outagamie and Winnebago County Scanner Group Administrator Chad Campbell.

Campbell is one of a few administrators in charge of the Facebook pages and says, "I'm the only one who really doesn't hide my identity."

Campbell says he started the pages years ago as a volunteer firefighter to share his passion for scanners and to keep fellow firefighters information who weren't always able to listen to the scanner.

Since then, both pages have certainly evolved. They've both grown to more than 50,000 members. Like any new reporter, Campbell quickly learned it's not always popular sharing developing information—like the time he posted scanner traffic about the deadly Fox Cities Trestle Trail Shooting in 2015—not knowing how the incident would develop at the time.

"We've gotten death threats, I've had a stalker. We have to use our best judgment, and say is there any risk to life or property or say, "Should this not be posted right now?"," Campbell often has to ask himself.

When it comes to sharing information, according to a study by three MIT scholars, false information can spread more rapidly on social media than real news.

Like any other social media moderator, Campbell says he's experienced that firsthand, and he says he's steadfast in making sure wrong information doesn't spread on his social media pages.

"I feel like we're doing that to the best of our abilities. We do get messages that are sometimes misleading, or it's a nothing situation. As a matter of fact, we use other news outlets to verify what's going on," Campbell said.

As for his pages' growth, he says the reason they've taken off is really quite simple.

"It's just convenient, it's in my pocket, you can get it all right at your phone. I want it now, and not when you say I can have it, but when I say I can have it," Campbell said.

Campbell says years after starting the pages, the reasoning behind maintaining them is really about raising awareness about your community's first responders that many people often take for granted.

"The ultimate goal isn't necessarily to highlight people that might be having the worst day of their lives. This is what your fire department is going through on a regular basis," Campbell said.

Again, Campbell says some of the other administrators are reluctant to share their identities, because they have gotten death threats.

He says he's discussed making members pay to use the pages and using that money to help community first responder groups, but he feels like offering it for free provides a community service.