Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Major misinformation from social media sites

A few hours after the bombings at the Boston marathon, one of my roommates told me that there had been a man waiting at the finish line to propose to his girlfriend who was running, only to see her get killed in the bomb blast.

Mistaken media — Social sites spiral out of control with frequent false reports. Google Images

As heart wrenching as the story was, according to CNN, this was one of the many false stories that circulated the internet and social media in the hours after the bombings.

However, not all of the false information given out was as harmless as this story.

On the social media website Reddit, speculation about the identity of the bombers led to trouble for several innocent men who were wrongly accused of being involved.

According to the Huffington Post, the photos of Salah Barhoum and Yassine Zaime were posted on various social media sites as possible suspects.

The New York Post even put their pictures on the front page, claiming they were suspects in the bombing.

Speculations were also made concerning the involvement of Sunil Tripathi, a then-missing Brown University student, but this was only one of many early reporting mistakes.

Peter Bergen, a CNN analyst, was asked about the possibility of the explosions being a terrorist attack. The two groups he named as likely perpetrators were Al-Qaida, and right wing extremists — because, of course, no liberal would ever be involved in something like this.

Then again, there is the also the opposite problem of being too cautious. During the first hour of CNN coverage I watched, broadcasters spent a significant amount of time discussing whether the explosions were from a bomb.

Other false reports included rumors of additional bombs being found around Boston, which later proved to be inaccurate.

There is a problem with these situations, however. Whether they are terrorist bombings or other tragedies, the media uses newsworthy events to increase ratings, and there is a continual race to be the first to break new information.

There is an attitude in the media that if the initial information is wrong, it can just be retracted and then replaced with the most current rumors.

Media outlets irresponsibly use these tragedies not to inform the public, but to speculate and drive ratings upward.

But is the media really to blame? The reality is that when a tragedy like this strikes, we all want to know exactly what happened and who was responsible for it.

The media frenzy that follows is a result of news organizations and social media sites giving us what we want at the cost of responsible reporting.

The Boston marathon bombing was a horrific tragedy and a reminder of the threat of terrorism.

In some ways, it brought out the best of America, with people reaching out to help others in their time of need.
However, it also showed the ugly side of our desire for instant news and the misinformation that results.

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