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Misinformation: what’s behind Flat Earth theories

It’s been well known since approximately 600 B.C. that the Earth is round. Before that, there was an early idea of the Earth’s shape being similar to a plane or a disk in different ancient cultures, like the Egyptians and the Greeks. By around that year, the very Greek scientists and philosophers used calculations based on the sun’s rise and fall, shadow, and other physical properties to determine what looks too obvious nowadays. As of that time, from the third century B.C. onwards, no educated person believed that the Earth is flat, according to historians. But still, the belief on a flat Earth did not die completely. Despite millennia of empiric evidence showing the Earth’s spherical shape through many different types of observation, some people had simply denied the facts and carried the misconception of the Flat Earth with them - giving birth to theories and assertions not based on scientific knowledge. The advocates for that cause have even created organizations and societies, which were never taken seriously, not only by experts, but also regular individuals. Relegated to pseudoscience, Flat Earth beliefs never reached a big number of adopters, but the advances in communication have made it easier for them to spread, causing a dangerous increase in this conspiracy following. Although they vary and disagree in many aspects, Flat Earth believers claim that governmental agencies want to hide from the population the fact that the Earth is a disk with the Arctic Circle in the center, and Antarctica being a huge wall of ice around the edges. According to them, NASA serves as a guard of that wall, working in several ways to cover the truth from people, because they don’t want anyone trying to climb over and falling off the disc. Flat-earthers accuse NASA of manipulating satellite images, and deny every other proof science has produced over time. As ludicrous as it sounds, they say the planet looks and feels flat, and that even gravity is just an illusion. The Flat-Earth theorists use misinformation like non-scientific experiments and even Bible interpretations to try to prove themselves right, attract others, and create doubts about governments, media, and scientists’ intentions. And the rise of the internet was a fundamental key for the escalation of this kind of story. In fact, the wide possibilities of communications help us in many things in our lives, but also allow flat-earthers to have a platform to connect with one another, so they can reinforce their ideas and disseminate their beliefs to countless people. It’s worrying how much attention those people have been gaining and how loud they can be on distributing misinformation. The ascension of communications technology has made it possible for people to spread (mis)information like never seen before. The possibility of reaching tons of people, alongside the freedom to say whatever you want and the use of mechanisms that can distort truth, become weapons in the hands of malicious people. What should be considered a joke these days may turn into a threat for the society, like the Flat Earth theories. It’s up to everyone to be careful with the things we see on the internet and to always think critically about information we receive. By doing that, we can help to stop the misinformation spread, and therefore, create a better, truth-aligned world.

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Majo Brito
Majo Brito
Jan 10, 2022

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