A staggering amount of misinformation spewed out of Twitter last week in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. There were reports of suspects being killed when they were very much alive, reports of arrests made while suspects were on the run, and worst, innocents had their names dragged through the mud by tens of thousands of otherwise well-intentioned people.
Twitter shouldn’t have to make sure everything crossing its servers is factual or true, but it is in Twitter’s interest to themselves to give us the tools to clean things up. Otherwise it risks becoming a cesspool of untruths and rumors. Twitter needs a way to reel bad information back in. It needs a way to let us flag things that we’ve said that turn out to be wrong. Twitter needs an edit button, a correction process.
I’m guilty of contributing to the problem. On Thursday night, when Boston was in lockdown as police chased suspects through the city, I tweeted the thing I likely regret the most in the six years I’ve used Twitter. I tweeted a man’s name, along with a vulgar expression of shock, that I thought had been attached to the Boston Marathon bombings. I followed that up with a link to an archived Facebook page. The name was one I wrongly believed had been sent out over the Boston Police Department Scanner. I was incredibly, shamefully wrong about that, and even more so to pass it along. I contributed to the despicable massively multiplayer online rumor mill that a missing Brown University student named Sunil Tripathi was in any way associated with acts of murder and violence. That I wasn’t alone only makes it worse.
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