Vetting the Misleading Information on Social Media Following Las Vegas Shooting
Shortly following Sunday night’s shooting in Las Vegas; information about the incident began spreading like wildfire.
Shortly following Sunday night’s shooting in Las Vegas, information about the incident began spreading like wildfire. But not all of this information was accurate.
One example comes from a tweet where the writer claims victims everywhere and shots fired from Mandalay Bay, Tropicana, Bellagio, New York New York and other hotels. But we know this to be untrue as Las Vegas police have confirmed there was only one shooter and he was at the Mandalay Bay.
As Bob Harmon with the Washoe County Sheriff's Office says, there's a good side and a bad side to social media. Last night, the world saw a little bit of both.
“The good side is it allows all sorts of agencies, agencies such as law enforcement, news agencies to be able to reach a lot of people with information rapidly,” said Harmon.
The bad side, there's no way to filter or control the type of information that gets out to the general public. We saw this Sunday night when all kinds of social media users created and spread misleading information about the shooting in Las Vegas.
“The onus falls on the consumer to look at everything with a degree of skepticism to not just take everything that they see on social media at face value,” said Harmon.
So why then does unconfirmed information get posted onto social media platforms? Communications expert Todd Felts says in a moment of crisis, it isn't uncommon for people to post before they think.
“If enough of us spend time substantiating the information that we receive and sharing only that information, that's when we become helpful in managing the crisis,” said Felts.
Felts believes that many people on social media mean well when they try to get information out quickly. But in an instance like the one in Las Vegas when lives are dependent on accurate facts, it might be better to put the phone down and be patient.
“Eventually the truth does emerge, if enough people are sharing information, the misinformation tends to go away, pretty quickly and the facts start to emerge,” said Felts.
Facebook and Google admitted they, too, inadvertently spread incorrect information in the initial hours of this incident. The sheriff's office says that's why you should follow local law enforcement and trusted news organizations.