'Hurricane Sandy's worst online troll' gets a beating

Oct 30, 2012
The New York Stock Exchange is seen as New Yorkers clean up the morning after Sandy made landfall. An influential netizen came under angry scrutiny Tuesday after dramatic information he announced on his widely-followed Twitter account at the peak of deadly superstorm Sandy was found to be false.

An influential netizen came under angry scrutiny Tuesday after dramatic information he announced on his widely-followed Twitter account at the peak of deadly superstorm Sandy was found to be false.

Some of his claims—which included a report the trading platform was seriously flooded—went viral as Sandy battered the US east coast late Monday, forcing authorities to issue rapid-fire denials.

@ComfortablySmug's were just some of the rumors and false information that circulated widely on Twitter during the storm—all of which had been discounted by fact-checkers or authorities by Tuesday.

"There are a lot of bad people out there, but it takes a special chutzpah to tweet false information during a disaster. cc @comfortablysmug," @byelin said on Twitter, one of many angry netizens.

Another netizen called @ComfortablySmug—who counts the digital director of Barack Obama's campaign as one of his 6,164 followers—"Hurricane Sandy's worst online troll."

The netizen's claim about the NYSE trading floor being under three feet of water was soon refuted by the stock exchange, but it was still retweeted 642 times. The rumor also found its way onto national television.

Another "breaking" tweet that Con Edison was shutting down all power in New York City earned him an almost immediate rebuke on Twitter from the electricity firm, which said his information was "wrong."

Aside from @ComfortablySmug, other pieces of misinformation also spread like widlfire on Twitter, from reports that people were stuck in a building to pictures of a shark swimming in floodwaters.

One man called Tom Phillips posted some of these photos on a page on blogging platform Tumblr—titled "Is Wrong?"—and fact-checked them.

One dramatic picture of a threatening cloud mass over New York that was retweeted thousands of times, for instance, was found to be more than a year old.

Amy Mitchell, deputy director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, said the spread of was one of the consequences of the advent of the Internet and its thirst for instant news.

"Even when the piece of information has been corrected, there is a good chance it's got to individuals that won't ever see the correction," she said.

"There's more of an onus placed on the news consumer to be able to check for themselves, knowing which sources are those they can trust."

Explore further: Premier US album chart revamped to include streaming

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hackers send fake terror alerts from NBC's Twitter

Sep 10, 2011

(AP) -- A hacker broke into the Twitter account of NBC News and sent out a handful of false tweets about a suspected hijacking and a plane attack at ground zero just days before the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

Social media helps out as Hurricane Sandy approaches

Oct 29, 2012

Locating the nearest emergency shelter or chatting live with forecasters—social networks were abuzz with the latest news, tips and reassurance Sunday as Americans hunkered down for Hurricane Sandy.

Secret Service to probe hack on Fox News Twitter

Jul 04, 2011

(AP) -- The Secret Service said Monday it will investigate the hacking of Fox's political Twitter account over updates claiming that President Barack Obama had been assassinated. ...

Twitter analysis provides stock predictions

Apr 04, 2011

Economists at the Technical University of Munich have developed a website that predicts individual stock trends. To this end, economists are using automatic text analysis methods to evaluate thousands of daily Twitter microblog ...

Recommended for you

YouTube goes online for second Music Awards

Nov 20, 2014

The YouTube Music Awards are undergoing an overhaul for their second edition next year, scrapping a star-studded gala and instead looking at videos' online buzz.

China Premier calls for greater role in shaping Web

Nov 20, 2014

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang Thursday demanded a greater role for Beijing in shaping the global Internet, calling for "order" online as he failed to address his government's censorship of content it deems politically ...

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sean_W
4.5 / 5 (8) Oct 30, 2012
Amy Mitchell, deputy director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, said the spread of false information was one of the consequences of the advent of the Internet and its thirst for instant news.


No, the spread of false information is a consequence of today's "journalism" being so bereft of "excellence" that people have to turn to the Internet. A false tweet is 140 characters long and reaches a few hundred people. False journalism (redundant term) can be pages of text or many minutes of video clips (repeated for days) with an audience of millions of society's less informed.
be4r
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 30, 2012
ZOMG guys, i read some stuff on the internet, but it was wrong, and it was wrong on purpose, and that person tricked me. Why did he trick me when he knows its so easy to? That's not nice. He's not nice. Everybody read my tweets about how not nice he is and then agree with me so we can all feel special and scapegoat our gullibility together.

TL/DR: I hate twitter with a passion.
MorituriMax
1 / 5 (3) Oct 30, 2012
Bon-jourrrrrr.

TL/DR? Really? 140 characters is too long?
You might consider changing that to TL/ADD from now on.
8 )
axemaster
not rated yet Oct 30, 2012
The netizen's claim about the NYSE trading floor being under three feet of water was soon refuted by the stock exchange, but it was still retweeted 642 times. The rumor also found its way onto national television.

It's amazing that I still have the capacity to be shocked at the ineptitude of national news programs...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.