The Dangers of Social Media: False Rumors

Hurricane Sandy devastated the east coast this past week, and social media played a huge role in recovery and information about the storm. However, not all of what was shared on social media was helpful to hurricane relief. Some of the pictures and stories that were shared were false. Along with many false pictures, one with the Statue of Liberty being consumed by a tidal wave, there were many false reports being spread about the conditions of the city after the storm. One of these reports was that the stock exchange was flooded with three feet of water. This was shared widely, and many people believed that the storm was far worse than it was, causing fear for many people who had friends and relatives in the affected area.

Although many people spread many different types of erroneous rumors, one culprit on Twitter was found to have been spreading the most prolific false reports about the hurricane. This person goes under the Twitter account name, #comfortablysmug. He made up the story about the stock exchange and made up several other stories about the metro systems and electricity in New York City. Recently, he was revealed to be hedgefund analyst, Shashank Tripathi. Tripathi’s false and shocking tweets were retweeted several hundred times. Although he has apologized for the false tweets, these tweets left a mark on the effects of social media on disaster relief. While social media can be very helpful, it can also hinder relief as false rumors can spread. It is important for people to remember to look for credible sources for their information following up a disaster.

Read the full article here.

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4 responses to “The Dangers of Social Media: False Rumors

  • ahamilton92

    This is a problem with social media that we will definitely have to address in the future. I think the media should keep an eye open for faulty tweets and fact check them on the news like they do with the presidential debates. I also think there should be legal repercussions for someone who knowingly spreads false information with the intention to harm. They should extend libel laws to cover situations like this.

  • ewaller11

    I agree that people should be held accountable for spreading false information. However, putting laws in place that will allow effective prosecution of the spread of false information on personal social media accounts will be tricky when trying to balance the freedoms of the first amendment.

  • gwendroff

    I agree with the above statements, although people should be accountable for spreading rumors via social media, this will be very difficult to implement. An easier way to stop the proliferation of false statements via twitter, should be on the side of the re-tweeter. One should never re-tweet something unless they know for sure that it is absolutely correct. If more people take the time to verify the facts of tweets before they re tweet them, the detrimental effects of false tweets can be minimized.

  • cobykg

    During times of disaster, people are forced to act quickly and impulsively. It is nearly impossible to sift through information and determine what is true and what is not. In addition, relief teams are often reluctant to discount any statements as a peoples lives could be at stake.

    That being said, there actually are some technologies that are used to verify the validity of social media posts. Ushahidi uses the SwiftRiver platform to analyze posts, indentify trends, and rate data to refine and varify information they receive. While this is not a solution to preventing false posts, it certainly can help provide more accurate data during times of crises.

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