December 6, 2012 | By:

Twitter and Sandy

Before, during and after Hurricane Sandy made its way up the east coast, Twitter served as a valuable resource for emergency and relief workers alike. For example, organizations such as the Red Cross used Twitter as an outlet to share where relief stations would be situated throughout the city. The City of New York used Twitter to alert citizens as to where there were city buses running limited routes in the days after the storm. However, Twitter has been a double-edged sword when it comes to information being shared in the aftermath of the disaster. While many organizations used the service to transmit vital information to those who needed it most, some individuals used Twitter to broadcast fake information related to the storm and the damage that had resulted from it. Below are two examples of misinformation making its way across the Twitter sphere in the aftermath of the storm.

Fake Storm Photos

In the days both during Hurricane Sandy and after Hurricane Sandy, Twitter exploded with so called “photos” of the storm making its way to land. From the Statue of Liberty down the coast to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, so called hurricane photos were popping up all over the place. While many photos were soon debunked as fakes, the ideas that the photos themselves created are of concern. The picture circulating of a massive wave crashing over the Statue of Liberty, later exposed to be a still shot from the movie “The Day After Tomorrow,” brought about fear to some because of the size of the storm that the photo made out Hurricane Sandy to be. While many have dismissed these images as internet hoaxes that are always present when some sort of natural disaster takes place, the perceived fear these images created among some individuals in the heart of the storm had the potential to cause a greater outbreak of fear than had already been achieved via the crisis.

Fake Reports on Sandy’s Wrath

While the tweeting of fake photographs can cause a variety of issues during a disaster, the tweeting of fake information during a crisis can take on a life of its own. Such is the example of a man who sent tweets to his 6,500 followers such as “BREAKING: Con Edison has begun shutting down all power in Manhattan,” and “BREAKING: Governor Cuomo is trapped in Manhattan. Has been taken to a secure shelter.” These tweets were retweeted 500 times with no telling the reach of whom they reached. These messages were conflicting with storm reports coming in from reputable resources, bringing about confusion for those using Twitter as their primary source of information. This rouge user was later identified and faced consequences for his actions, however the damage of his misinformation had the potential to possibly cause dire confusion in a state of emergency.

While Twitter most often serves as a sounding board for millions of individuals around the word, it also has become a source of information when other forms of communication are not available. This new purpose Twitter has assumed means users must be extremely mindful in the information they produce during a time of disaster, as the service can now be considered a primary outlet for information during a time of crisis.

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