Why, when tragedy strikes, does common sense goes out the window?


Now, I love social media and champion it for the most part but when tragedy strikes where does everyone’s common sense go?

Within mere minutes of the Boston Marathon tragedy, people on Twitter were:

a) Speculating as to how many casualties there were

b) Retweeting bogus accounts, such as the one pictured. If people had just clicked on the account ( @_bostonmarathon) they would have seen it was fake and, like me, report it for spam

c) blaming terrorists when no one even had any facts

We all need to take responsibility when something of this magnitude happens and resist tweeting and retweeting unreliable sources and spreading fear and speculation. And yes, even ‘eye witnesses’ can be unreliable.

And it’s not just Twitter. I saw a photo on Facebook of the ‘8 year old girl who died in the Boston Marathon blast and who was running for Sandy Hook Kids’.

Firstly, eight year old children cannot run in marathons and secondly it was actually a boy who passed away. I shudder to think of the repercussions of posting this young girl’s photo all over the internet and also how her family must feel, particularly extended family who have seen this and may now think she was a victim.

And of course, my sympathies are with the three people who have lost their lives, their families and friends as well as the 140 or so people who are injured, many critically. I hope that, in time, they will heal.

As we all know, in times like these, social media can be a great support system. Remember the London Riot cleanups organised on Twitter and Facebook?

But it can also be taken advantage of by trolls, bogus accounts, spammers and people spreading untruths ( whether intentionally or not.)

So please, THINK before you tweet. Inspired by Damien Clarkson, here are some tips to help you spot a fraudulent Twitter account:

1. Click on the account and look at what is written in their bio. In the case of _@BostonMarathon they clearly stated they were the unofficial Boston Marathon account.

2. If it is coming from a well known charity/business/event it’s likely that they would have the blue verification tick to say that it is an official account.

3. Have they tweeted the same message to a number of people over and over?

4. Do they follow hundreds or thousands of people with few people following them back?

By taking just a few minutes (or even seconds), you can help prevent spreading spam or untrue tweets. If you believe an account to be spam, please report it to Twitter.