CSMonitor – That tweet, made during the height of superstorm Sandy earlier this week, quickly swept through the Twitterverse. CNN mentioned it. So did The Washington Post. But it wasn’t true… As the report’s credibility began to erode, it didn’t take long for the blog BuzzFeed to manage to track down the person behind the bogus tweet, Shashank Tripathi… What, if anything, can be done about people who pollute a valuable new stream of information? In extreme cases legal action might be brought against an individual. Peter Vallone Jr., a New York City councilman, says he’s asked the Manhattan district attorney to look into filing charges against Tripathi… The challenge for news-gathering organizations continues to be how to balance the tremendous resource of text and photo postings by ordinary citizens with the news gatherers’ duty to authenticate these “reports.” In some cases a quick phone call can do the job.
Let me see if I’ve got this straight: Some anonymous slapdick Tweets a story he made up about the Stock Exchange getting flooded, some of the supposedly most respected news organizations in the world take his goofy lie and run with it like it’s true, and now he’s the one facing criminal charges for it? Not the allegedly professional journalists who reported it out to their millions of followers as fact without so much as a phone call to see if it’s actually… y’know, true or not. Chalk up another one for Old Media. It’s amazing to me how slow sources like CNN and WaPo can be. It’s like they fell asleep in 1993 and just woke up this morning and can’t figure out where all this new communication came from and how to handle it. Hell, Howard Stern listeners have been going out of their way to mindfuck these guys for 20 years now and still they fall for it every time. So when they put a Stern caller on the air pretending to be some government official or re-Tweet some nobody’s stupid joke as news, they blame the guy who pulled a fast one on them instead of blaming their own reckless stupidity. And anyone who likes Free Speech even a little bit ought to be terrified. I mean, after the storm I Tweeted that Tim Tebow was taking time off to finish building the Ark. Does this mean that if CNN repeated the joke and it caused a bunch of religious nutjobs started gathering animals together, I could go to jail? Because if you can face criminal charges for Tweeting something the Old Media was dumb enough to fall for, they’re gonna need a bigger jail.
Update: Tripathi has since apologized and is asking for forgiveness. If only there was a clever phrase we could come up with for a guy named Shashank looking to redeem himself… @JerryThornton1