Misinformation and its spread

I’ve taken to following a number of news sources on Twitter, many of them being things other than traditional news outlets. It’s a very fast way to get news, and often presents more of a first-hand look than traditional news can provide.

But it’s also important to remember that the news, whether it’s some guy on Twitter or primetime nationwide TV networks, get things wrong from time to time. The Internet makes it really easy for these errors to spread.

Twitter had an outage the other night, mostly affecting mobile users. I saw it reported that there was evidence / experts were saying it was a “hack attack” by North Korea. Nope! Turns out that was groundless speculation, and it was just a Twitter bug.

When AirAsia flight QZ8501 went missing, some of the early reports on Twitter were that it had requested “an unusual flight pattern” change right before it went missing. That’s really suspicious and reminiscent of MH370. Could it have been sabotage? Nope! “[T]he pilot requested permission to turn and climb to a higher altitude because of bad weather,” CNN reports. Many seem to have corroborated that there was a fairly strong storm in the area at the time.

So take your news with a grain of salt. Otherwise you’re one step away from believing stuff like this.

One thought on “Misinformation and its spread

  1. As a followup to this… An astonishing number of 9-1-1 calls / things you hear dispatched over the scanner are either entirely false of seriously misguided.

    One of my all-time favorites was a 9-1-1 call for a chimney fire; someone reported smoke coming from their neighbor’s chimney. The fire department rushed to the scene to find that, it being a cold winter night, the homeowners had lit a fire in their fireplace, thus the smoke coming out of the chimney. Who knows why the neighbors assumed it was a chimney fire, or why they called 9-1-1 but didn’t alert the neighbors.

    Last night, I heard a call go out for a “reported structure fire with heavy smoke.” Fire alarm activations are overwhelmingly false alarms, but “reported structure fire” is a term you don’t hear often, and it usually ends with crews finding an actual working fire. “Smoke in the building” or “heavy smoke” are also compelling indicators that the call is for a working fire.

    Fire crews found absolutely nothing. No alarms sounding, no smoke in the building, no faint smell of smoke in the air. Eventually, they deduced that the dryer vents outside the building were putting out lots of steam, and that must be what the caller saw.

    And just now, a call for a possible suicidal male on the side of a bridge in the city. Multiple crews were dispatched, both police and ambulance to the scene to try to talk him down, and a simultaneous crew in the water below to begin a possible water rescue / body recovery. No one was on the bridge, and no one was found in the water. All indications are that the caller just mistook a pedestrian for a jumper.

    Emergency responders take each of these calls seriously, as they should, but as a scanner listener, it seems prudent to wait until there is some confirmation that the dispatched call is remotely close to what is actually happening.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *