Bad, Mistaken or Malicious Information Via Social Media During Hurricane Sandy

by admin on November 5, 2012


Media Quotes on Sandy:

“Social media has become the go-to source these days in crisis communications,” said Simon Fraser University communication professor Peter Chow-White. “If you’re trying to connect with people outside (the crisis area), or connect with people inside, it seems to be one of the best forms of communication.”

“It also becomes a massive source of misinformation.” Vancouver Sun

“These updates seemed to illustrate how a crowd of social media junkies can turn up news faster than a scattered few professional reporters. That would have been true — if the stories themselves had been. In fact, many stories were fabricated, some by the same anonymous tweeter.”  Boston Globe


I wrote “Hurricane Sandy-The First Major Social Media Emergency?” as the storm approached at  knowing that social media could be a blessing and a possible curse during the storm. It proved to be a bit of both.

Please note that I absolutely adore social media and I believe that it’s the future of communications.

But as someone with considerable emergency management media experience, I also know the decades-old problem of rumors (thus rumor control teams in government information centers) and that bad information could explode.

It’s also possible that incorrect information could hamper response or rescue efforts. With the endless fake photos of sharks swimming down flooded streets in New York and New Jersey, how many people chose not to leave their flooded homes out of fear?

Yes, social media is a lifeline to millions of stranded people providing mostly accurate information and psychological comfort yet the potential for misinformation and massive harm remains.

It’s a question what needs resolution.   Hurricane Sandy didn’t resolve the issue but brought forth examples (see below) of social media misuse.  We need tools to better access bad, mistaken or malicious information via social media before the next “big one” hits.

Best, Len.

Examples of coverage of bad information via social media during Hurricane Sandy:

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