This is a humorous reminder of what can happen when one does not check a source.
It is also important to check that the original media release has not been corrupted in the course of re-telling; a vital word missed, singular become plural etc.
Wherever possible a variety of media sources should be checked – not just on Twitter. Is the story featuring on more traditional media such as radio or television?
The good advice of pausing, before you send a snappy email response to someone, also applies with retweeting.
If you pass on false rumours or information the consequences can be dire as a Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise discovered when he passed on a hoax tweet.
In his statement Wise said:
“I made a horrendous mistake, using my Twitter account, which identifies me as a Washington Post columnist, to come up with an unsourced sentence about the length of Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension. I didn’t put “kidding” in that sentence. I didn’t put “Just joking.”
I could even say I thought I corrected it within five minutes and didn’t realize my Twitter server was busy 30-40 minutes later. But the truth is, if I waited one second to make my intentions and sourcing clear, I waited too long.”
Cory Bergman is even more succinct when he states that there’s one golden rule of social media for journalists – if you wouldn’t write it in the newspaper or say it on TV, don’t send it out on Twitter.
This rule is equally applicable to citizen journalists.
Consider also the case of a Chinese woman who has just been sentenced to a year in a labour camp for “disrupting social order” by re tweeting a satirical message urging Chinese protesters to smash the Japan pavilion at the Shanghai Expo. Another case of misplaced satire?
While the validity of what we tweet can be problematic others are worried that the use of Twitter will actually corrupt customer service as we currently know it.
David Bowen of Bowen Craggs recounts how a presenter at a Danish conference has tweeted her dissatisfaction with her bank, and had been contacted by the bank’s customer service people “within minutes”.
Such immediate contact may now becoming the norm in the USA but perplexed the Scandinavians. Bowen has deeper concerns:
“If companies are brilliantly geared up to monitor and respond to Twitter, why are they incapable of responding to e-mail (or phoned or written) complaints. Is the threat of blackmail (Twitter’s viral power is impressively scary ) any basis for a customer service policy?
Also, what happens if we all (Danes included) discover that the only way to get a complaint sorted is to tweet about it? There will be so many complaints that companies will be unable to respond to them all, and the whole system will become less and less effective. It works while Twitter is still a bit of a novelty; if it becomes a mainstream communications medium, it will not.”