Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How Twitter found 'up to 30 dismembered bodies'

By Helen A.S. Popkin

It was a bad week for news outlets, Internet users and especially 44-year-old Texas trucker Joe Bankson, who told the Houston Chronicle "I ain't killed nobody," after news quickly spread from Reuters, The New York Times, CNN, msnbc.com's Twitter account Breaking News, that 30 dismembered bodies (some of them children) were found on his property near Houston. "We've had the cops out at our house, but never for nothing like that. Somebody called the police on my dogs one time."a

On last Thursday's visit, cops did come upon the smell of rotten meat (from a broken freezer), and blood on the door (from Bankson's daughter's boyfriend, who cut his wrist). They showed up after receiving a tip from a psychic (now under investigation). By that time however, even International news agencies were covering the non-existent story with growing detail including headlines such as, "Dozens of bodies' found in mass Texas grave," that were tweeted and retweeted hundreds of time. a

As the dust settles, and "Texas authorities find up to 30 bodies" is still at the top of Internet news searches, area TV station KPRC (which seems to be Ground Zero for the Twitter outbreak) blames the Liberty Police Department for the media frenzy. Meanwhile, the Liberty Police Department blames social media. So who is to blame? Various news outlets attempted to scrub the original false story from their websites and Twitter feeds, but NPR's "On The Media" managed to find a trail.a

If the stress monkeys weren't circling KPRC news director Deborah Collura's head, it certainly sounded so in her voice as she affirmed to OTM host Bob Garfield that there was no way, no how such an outrageous story would even get mentioned on her news broadcast unless she had reporters onsite reporting first person. That story came from one of the KPRC website's 30 employees, somebody who "obviously got overly aggressive with the story and tweeted something that did not go through the checks and balances," Collura said.a

Why the distinction between the TV newscast, the website or Twitter, Garfield asked. "This is 2011, aren't they all the same?"a

Not at KPRC, where all employees have access to KPRC's official Twitter account, a policy which is no doubt about to change. It's that tweet — sent out by a party who has yet to be identified — that was picked up by Reuters, and then the rest of the world. The original news tip to KPRC — about the 30 dismembered bodies which weren't — came from the cops, Collura said.a

"The way the events unfolded, probably around 3:30 or 3:45 p.m., we received a call from the Liberty County Sheriff's Department (Public Information Officer) Rex Evans, so it did not start with a tweet with us," Collura told Garfield. "So I can set the record straight." Curiously, PIO Evans didn't mention the cops got their tip from a psychic.a

For his part, PIO Evans didn't seem interested in placing blame ... or accepting it. He pretty much just spread it around, letting us all off the hook, or hanging us on it. "I believe not only mainstream media but social media played an integral part in," the non-news frenzy. Adding that you can't really pin it on anyone in particular, PIO Evans offered this timely observation: "In social media, nobody stops to verify anything." Be it Facebook, emails or Twitter, "you can disseminate any information you want. Problem is, people don't stop and think what they are releasing or putting out there could actually be harmful for someone else."a

"Perhaps the more innocent among us are fooled by the fact that the Internet has also increased the amount of ridiculous but true news," writes TechCrunch's Alexia Tsotsis in his piece, If Something On Twitter Seems Too Bad To Be True, It Probably Is. "Media frenzies like #Weinergate and Sarah Palin’s description of Paul Revere’s ride remind us that there is plenty of bona fide news that people wish was fake, making the tech media landscape pretty much a crapshoot for bloggers focused on speed."a

So what have we learned from this —or any of the other specious info that rocketed around the Interwebs last week?a

Just as up to 30 dismembered bodies (some of them children), weren't found near Houston, some girl doesn't face painful laser tattoo removal everytime she unfriends (or is unfriended), the kidnapped lesbian Syrian blogger is safe and some married guy in Scotland and "African-American customers" are not required to pay an additional fee of $150 per transaction. We learned that, just like "War of the Worlds," we are suckers for a racy tale. These days, we just fall for 'em not at the speed of radio waves, but the Internet.a

More on the annoying way we live now:a

Facebook loses 6 million US users, continues to conquer globe Just because it’s on Twitter, it (still) isn’t true New York City is Twitter capital of the world

Helen A.S. Popkin goes blah blah blah about the Internet. Tell her to get a real job on Twitter and/or Facebook. a

Artikel yang Berkaitan

0 komentar:

Post a Comment