Bon Jovi was also once “dead” –– one of the many juicy stories spun using convenient social platforms such as the micro-blog service, Twitter. BBC and The Guardian UK reported on the dangers of rumours on Twitter recently where the extent of the recent London riots were blown out of proportion with a picture of the London Eye on fire.
While social media has been effectively used to announce breaking news, it is also my concern as a practitioner that its convenience has increasingly become the breeding ground for lies and rumours. Many may start it as a harmless joke, but at the rate information is being shared and passed around, sometimes the true meaning changes and grows into something much more destructive.
Social media has also in the recent years become the ideal platform to start a political war. Whoever gains control of key influencers (like the FOX news account) and is able to spread well-crafted rumours swiftly and effectively will be able to cause panic and paralyze an entire economy, resulting in a win in psychological warfare. It is said that a certain communist country in the north is investing on internet warfare rather than bio-warfare (don’t take my word for it). We don’t know how much truth there is in it, but we can imagine a well-synchronized effort may potentially cause an irreversible damage globally especially when the internet space is one without borders.
All of us like to share first-hand information, that’s me included. I also have my instances where news I shared are inaccurate. I will then clarify and correct it as soon as I can. But the thing I’ve learned is that we should always check the source where possible, exercise some discretion when the news look dubious, unless supported by multiple eye–witnesses and multiple picture stories (such as the circle line break-down, although it can’t always be trusted – see London Eye on fire above). Otherwise, share it with a disclaimer as rumoured if you REALLY must share it.
We know that news on TV are not always the whole truth, we then should have the least common sense to know how to take hearsay from the web with a pinch of salt too. It may not always be possible to expect responsible posting from everyone but we can exercise that on ourselves. That responsibility is extended to official authorities and corporations as well.
Companies and authorities must establish crisis–ready social channels to keep the public informed of situations ahead of time. SMRT recent failures have demonstrated a critical case for all public service and corporations (I hope). Social media is not an option and the ostrich–spirit will not endure in this generation anymore. The only way to extinguish rumours is to provide an honest, accurate and timely source of official information on all possible communication channels to the public. Most companies are platform-driven yet not content or crisis ready. Please note that platforms are only a medium and it is your strategy or management plan that will make it different for your business. So for those companies who think they can still wait, please do not hesitate to seek the assistance of a digital strategist NOW to help you plan for crisis BEFORE it happens (think DBS network down).
As they say, prevention is better than cure.
Short answer, no. While the internet is a rich source of information, it’s also filled with dis-information. Hoaxes abound online and a little caution is always wise. It’s worth spending a little time to check if it’s true.
In fact, even the supposedly savvy young aren’t immune to the lure of juicy or shocking news: ‘British think-tank Demos shares that despite their feelings of efficacy, young people are not careful, discerning users of the Internet‘.
You could even say that it’s the young who are most susceptible to the consequences of thoughtless comments online, where a tweet got a UK teen into the proverbial hot soup.
Bottomline, give a little thought to what you do online, and don’t believe everything you see.