A few years ago, I tried to correct a falsehood in an online article – the article, on a site catering to photographers, portrayed one of the sites that offer absolutely free photos (CC0 license) as an “evil” that would lure people into giving away their photos for free. That was absolutely not the case – and I knew that because I had submitted one single photo to the site (a photo that was stolen so often, by religious organizations no less, that I got tired of chasing them down, and decided to make it available for free – I wrote about it: Here, Take It!).
Right after signing up for that particular service, and while submitting that photo, plenty of notifications served as “warnings” that indeed, I’d be giving away my photo for free for any purpose whatsoever. I couldn’t possibly claim that I got “tricked” or didn’t know. So I said that, as a comment to the article that made this false accusation. I wasn’t even defending the CC0-photography site that serves as an agency for free photos (it hurts my business too that these sites exist, but times have changed).
The public though? The news site itself? They didn’t want to hear it. I was attacked, called names, and whatnot. It was absolutely hopeless and useless to try and set the record straight. The mob of enraged photographers, otherwise feeling helpless against a changing tide, had found a victim – I was cast as one who was defending the site that made free photos available for download.
The facts didn’t even matter to them. Like the fact that the “free photos” site was just the messenger, a harbinger of change, the fact that it is the contributors who damage the stock photography industry. Or the fact that the photo-news site was spinning a story based on falsehoods. And of course the fact that “good Flickr” is full of searchable CC0 license photos, just like the site that was reported on…
I learned my lesson back then. I didn’t engage in any online discussions over a controversial subject ever since (especially not with some random photographers that I neither know now feel any connection to). It is completely hopeless and useless, a waste of time and energy, to engage with a public who doesn’t want to hear, and to try and change the dishonest ways of the clickbait-school of “news” sites that seek just that: clicks, and attention.
Yesterday, something similar happened – sites began to report a story based on a falsehood, and people went nuts. I sought clarification from the company at the center of it, voiced some concerns on Twitter because I too felt unsure about what was actually going on – and it was resolved with a direct answer from the company, within minutes. In the evening, I sent an email to the people whom I felt I should notify about this (my Lightroom students), and that was it.
You know who didn’t care? All the sites that reported this – and all the folks who want to keep on hating. It doesn’t even matter to them. They hated the company and their product to begin with, and their outrage had nothing to do with the (falsely) reported “news”.
If the internet and it’s “culture” are a reflection of our society (and I think it is), then this, once more, casts a pretty damning picture on it.