The Power of Social Media – For Good or Bad

As this world becomes more and more fixated with instant information, the one sector that suffers is journalism. It seems news outlets are trying to get the scoop even before the scoop ever happens. We saw this with the Boston Marathon bombing. The days after this tragic even, news organizations were clamoring to be the first to announce an arrest. A few organizations had to retract their “Breaking News” when it was discovered that there had been no arrest.

With the Twitterverse and social media exploding over this new, but inaccurate, information, the FBI took an unusual step to issue a warning to all news outlets over accurate reporting.

Here is what they said: “Contrary to widespread reporting, no arrest has been made in connection with the Boston Marathon attack. Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate. Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting.”

One would think, lesson learned. Nope. Today, April 23, 2013 – a bogus tweet claiming to be from the Associated Press sent the markets in a tail spin. One fake tweet cause U.S. Treasuries prices to go up, Wall St. Prices suffered, and Crude oil prices fell over 70 cents. Once the tweet was revealed to be fake, the markets stabilized and recovered the losses. However, the point is still made clear.

Social Media can be a powerful force, for good or bad. It seems  the general populous will rely on 140 characters when making decisions instead of waiting for the tried and true fact finding from conventional journalism. It brings a new meaning to the Latin phrase “Caveat Emptor” – Or “Let the Buyer Beware” – in this case, let the consumer/reader beware when interpreting what would seem a crucial tweet.

I could only imagine what would happen if Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga were to turn their nation of Twitter followers against us.

You can read about this fake Twitter from the Reuters site: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/23/markets-global-idUSL2N0DA1X620130423

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