Pastor's Corner

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When Information Becomes Viral


Do you know what one of the most famous computer viruses is? The virus “Jerusalem”, also known as “Friday the 13th”, which was created in Israel in 1988 to mark the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Jewish state. To activate the virus, the calendar only had to hit Friday the 13th and all the programs and files that were being used would be infected and eliminated. Crazy huh?

I was working on computers back in the early 90s with a friend of mine who was showing me various networking methods and computer systems when I learned about this virus. Compared to the damage that has been done by other viruses since the Jerusalem bug, it was not really that difficult to deal with unless you lost some important work. And it was not hard to remove from your computer either. It was among the first viruses that common users had to contend with though. But what really caught my attention about it, was learning that it was just a small software package someone had deliberately written to create chaos with people’s computers. It was not a mistake, not a defective software package, it was someone’s on purpose way of attacking others.

We are long past the days of viruses like the Jerusalem bug, and today’s viruses are virulent and more and more difficult to detect and remove. Anti-virus software companies can hardly keep up with the production of virus strains, every day there is a new threat. And who is at risk? Primarily the average user who does not know; doesn’t know what the threat is, doesn’t know how far the damage can reach, and doesn’t know just how deliberate the attack is.

This concept as a reality in today’s world has other implications as well, and it translates into other areas of life. For instance, we are at a point in social media when information is viral as well. Users on Facebook are classic examples of what this looks like. There is a continual flood of information being spread on social media sites like Facebook which are deliberately written to spread among users, lies presented as truth, lies the user wants to hear so they welcome the information and pass it on like a virus to other willing users. For the conservative crowds, lies about Obama are written and posted so they will spread like a cancer and they go viral in hours on Facebook. For the liberals and progressives, the lies will be about people like Dr. Ben Carson or other notable conservatives, and they will spread just as quickly.

Like a computer virus, these lies are written on purpose with a goal in mind; to attack users who do not know enough to protect themselves from such information, or are naïve enough to believe everything written on the internet. And we are not talking about groups like “The Onion” who are famous for their satirical information offerings, where occasionally someone who does not understand satire and will believe the information. We are talking about individuals and groups who are purposefully posting information to deceive and spread information chaos.

Believers must wake up to this and be more deliberate about what they pass on. We are people of the truth, we need to stick to the truth, and not pass on these information viruses. 

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