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Social media hoaxing, pranks are out of control

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 21:01

Believe it or not, just because something is trending on social networking sites doesn’t mean it’s true.

On Jan. 24, Twitter was flooded with more than 1,300 Tweets containing #RIPRushLimbaugh, many implying the famous talk show host was deceased.

The trend continued during the live broadcast of the “Rush Limbaugh Show,” in which Limbaugh is the primary speaker.

#RIPRushLimbaugh was just one of the many examples of false news spread through social media.

Earlier this month, controversy sparked when Tweets depicting young girls cutting themselves surfaced using the hashtag, CutForBieber.

While it was initially thought #CutForBieber was started by teens protesting the picture of Justin Bieber allegedly smoking a joint, it was later discovered that many of the Tweets, specifically those involving pictures, were part of an elaborate prank by members of 4Chan.

“Lets start a cut yourself for Bieber campaign,” according to the original post on the online message board. “Tweet a bunch of pics of people cutting themselves and claim we did it because Bieber was smoking weed. See if we can get some little girls to cut themselves.”

It’s currently unknown how many of the Tweets were part of the hoax.

Spreading false news is becoming an increasingly popular trend on sites like Facebook and Twitter – starting them may result in consequences.

“There is someone in my hour ecall 911,” said 16-year-old Kara Alongi on Twitter, typo and all, just hours before her disappearance on September 30.

Police responded to the Tweet and what eventually became more than 6,000 calls regarding it by launching an investigation, and quickly became suspicious at the lack of evidence pointing to foul play.

“The investigation quickly revealed a number of inconsistencies in the teen’s statement,” stated the police report.

Two days later, Alongi was picked up by police after the New Jersey teen dialed 911 at a Burger King restaurant, but not before police deemed the story she told untrue.

“Possibly she can face charges down the road,” said Alan Scherb, police chief in Alongi’s home town of Clark, N.J., citing creating false public alarm as one of the possibilities.

While the police bill was not passed onto Alongi’s family, police have not yet revealed if they will press charges against the teen girl who allegedly started the hoax.

With how heavily influenced by social media sites a college audience is, it’s very possible for Tech students to be impacted by such widespread hoaxes.

When asked how she would recommend students to respond to social media news, TTU Communications writer Lori Shull, who handles the university’s social media presence, had this to say.

“I think that a lot of the time it can be easy to get confused because social media moves so fast,” said Shull. “When in doubt, it would probably be best to check a credible news source.”

Facebook and Twitter may be popular sites to find the latest news, but with how easily rumors are started, and the possibility of being hacked, it would probably be best to take news found on it with a grain of salt –at least until the information can be confirmed.

 

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