Wednesday 21 October 2009

Malevolent Twitter Rumours Trending Dangerously

Rotten trends on blatant lies

The usefulness of social networking or news propagation forums that allow for the free expression of thought, sometimes hopes there would be responsible usage in terms of what is shared and maybe some consideration or concern for community or personality when information is given out.

I opened up my Twitter home page this afternoon and had one glimpse of the trending topics, what came up first was RIP Kanye West [1], I was both surprised and shocked. I am not that much a Kanye West fan, I cannot say I know any of his music but some of his antics sometimes makes me hope he finds a low profile coordination consultant that could keep him out of the news.

Not too long ago, he lost his mother to an unfortunate cosmetic surgery incident, in a split second; thousands of thoughts had rushed through my mind, many already of sadness or grief.

Between relaying and confirmation

I was also busy chatting to a friend on Skype and as one would naturally do, mentioned this trend to her. Thankfully, she, just as I did not automatically take that as truth, we quickly checked on news sites to determine if there was any truth to this news before we became part of the herd.

Apparently, it was a hoax [2], some malevolent and rotten person had started a Tweet that Kanye West had died in a car accident and instead of readers of the Tweet checking first if there was any truth to that story, they propagated the rumour with their RIP messages or ReTweeted the messages of others trying to affirm that an untruth in its entirety from conception was fact.

The shame of it all is that there are some many lazy people in the herd, crowd and bandwagon movement who could have within 30 seconds checked and confirmed the lies but they would rather be part of a trend and rather not let the truth, the just, the fair get in the way of an atrociously machinated nasty rumour.

Praise for trends

In the process this became the top trending topic on Twitter and it does much damage to he credibility of Twitter just as false postings have benighted Wikipedia.

The more incredible thing to me is that I have not seen any clear condemnation of this malicious and hurtful rumour, rather I have noticed people commending the genius of a person who has been able to get their lie to the top of Twitter trends, no matter whose ox was gored.

This is a dangerous development, where scandal, controversy or blatant untruths can capture the unimaginative minds of the easily lead and lazy crowds who propagate the selfsame thing to create a major democratic truth of a lie, the pressure of numbers then gives some legitimacy to the lie which then becomes news – this is not good.

Generally, I do not trust Twitter, I always follow the links to and interesting Tweet that comes up and try to corroborate that with other sources before I respond or ReTweet.

Seeking originality

To be honest, I must say that I am not particular enamoured with people who cannot combine the news topic with the URL and a basic opinion in 140 characters. I will never Tweet on an issue if I could not add an opinion, it is like relaying the news verbatim in a blog. In fact, it is the height of arrogance to think you are the original source of a story in the news on Twitter, it only matters for me when you can also add a soundbite, a quip, an opinion, a comment, something that gives the story a perspective.

After a while of not seeing original stuff from a Twitter friend, that friend gets pruned from my list, I believe in 140 characters you can create a unique personality with good opinions rather than be a relaying robot and a conduit for trash and the brash.

Can it be policed?

I suppose we can put this down to human nature that there would always been a misuse of social networking facilities but there has to be some mechanism in place to prevent falsehoods, lies and issues inimical to community building from trending dangerously with the affirmation of numbers.

This cannot be by peer review but some logic that notes the trend, verifies its purpose and sometimes removes it completely from the public timeline with a comment on the matter whilst the purveyor of the falsehood gets a sanction.

Always check before relaying

Inevitably, you can trust nothing but only by review and diligent research from authoritative and respected sources, it takes time and a bit of work of information management, but that better than joining the stampede for trends like swine running to destruction over a sheer cliff into the sea.

For all who contributed to this rumour, you should be sorely ashamed of yourselves, you have really let yourselves down, I do hope there would be a greater sense of awareness when next something like this happens again, just don’t give it oxygen if you have not confirmed from reliable sources that you have received in a Tweet.


[1] Twitter Search from trending topic

[2] Kanye West Is Not Dead, Just Victim Of Latest Internet Hoax - News Story | MTV News:

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