|Social Media Newsjackers|
Our most recent natural disaster demonstrates how easily, even the most trusted of media, like The Weather Channel, can fall victim to doctored photos and reports.
Reporters weren’t the only ones. As a former New York and New Jersey resident, I was communicating with my family who lives in New York City and New Jersey via text because they had no power and therefore no access to news on the storm. When I jumped on Facebook to see if anyone I knew had any resources or insight into handling the storm, this is the first image I saw:
This is actually a screen grab from the Hollywood Motion Picture “The Day After Tomorrow”. Needless to say, I clearly didn’t catch that one when it was in theaters.
Based on the hype associated with this storm, the photo above looks credible, right? Well, at least that’s what I thought, so I also shared it on Facebook, hoping my friends without power would make better preparations. This photo went viral and much to my and the dismay of many others, it is Photoshopped and a complete FAKE!
I also saw this photo:
Turns out this one was a combination of a generic photograph of New York Harbor with one from storm chaser and photographer Mike Hollingshead.
I was duped and some of our most trusted national news sources also reported false news, the most widespread story being that the New York Stock Exchange had been flooded by three feet of water.
Lucky for us, now, we can correct information as quickly as it’s reported incorrectly. Real-time data exchange has changed the impact of misinformation going viral much more quickly and forced these “newsjackers” to come clean.
How do we stop these “newsjackers” from spreading false information? Short of being careful of what we read, there’s nothing that we can truly “do”. However, now that we can report the news on a 24/7 basis, we can correct these mistakes and rival false news reports by sending the correction story into a viral spin. Since we have such ease of access to social media, news cycles are moving more quickly than before. The rapid fire correction stories have led to the following samples of today’s headlines:
The Star Ledger – “Hurricane Sandy: Fake photos shared on social media”
The Atlantic – “Sorting the Real Sandy Photos From the Fakes”
Mashable.com even went as far as putting together a compilation of all the fake Sandy photos that caused such a stir. Do people actually believe that a shark would be swimming through New Jersey floodwaters?