As this is usually Viral Video day here at Flip, let’s talk about video and pictures when it comes to a crisis like this.
Last night, many of us watched the horrific events in Boston unfolding in real time, others woke up this morning to be shocked by the news. One of the suspected bombers had been killed and the authorities are hunting the second. I am not going to pass along any more information than that on the incidents, since there are thousands of places at this point you can find the information.
Without going into the investigation, reasons why these terrible events happened at all, this blog is about technology and communications. Something in the weeks to come that we as a society really need to examine is where we get our news from and how we process it. Not finger pointing over who did wrong but a thoughtful conversation.
There has been a lot of heat over CNN’s misreporting of the arrest of the suspects and other misinformation that was transmitted. While it might be easy to look at the major media networks for their misreporting, we need to also take a look at the people who propagated photoshopped images, or other fear mongering attention grasping behavior. The intentional propagation of misinformation is potentially harmful to not only the responders to an incident but the victims and the people who are on lock down.
Not only was there the issue with the arrest reports, but after the FBI released pictures of the suspects there were a lot of photoshopped images that were posted as “eyewitness” shots. False twitter accounts were made as well, though many were shut down quickly. This morning there are a lot of pictures and videos from citizen journalists to sift through to find out what is real and what is just well…a very specific breed of troll.
Last night I saw someone tweet that Reddit was the only real place to get the news because it was the only unbiased source and that it was just the truth. Any time you see someone say something is the only truth or unbiased, that should send up red flags. The Reddit site had just as much misinformation as any other site, including claims that the suspects were middle eastern, reports of bombs in places that there were none, and more dramatization. There were people reporting directly from the police scanners, which is also not a great idea as the police do not wait to get details exactly right they have to mobilize on any reported threats and their job is to get police moving quickly. A lot of what was being tweeted from the scanners was often without a context.
No matter where you are following the breaking news of a crisis, remember to verify the information.
As I said during a panel I was on about crisis communications at SXSW, if you posted something that turned out to be incorrect:
Step up and acknowledge the mistake, retract the statement, do what you have to to make sure whatever you reported will not continue to be passed along as news. Go to the source. MIT is posting a lot, the FBI is posting a lot; be patient and don’t just go to Reddit and assume everything you see there is fact.
How are you getting your news? What did you see in the reporting of these events that you think needs to change?