Social media has been fantastic, a gateway to access what is going on in the world as it happens. However this can also cause problems. Twitter is where breaking news hits and is spread instantly, it is also where news can go viral. The problem is that rumours and false information can also go viral as in high tense situations we take anything we see for granted and this can create problems for innocent parties.
One such instance is seen following the recent Paris attacks and was covered by the Washington Post’s David Weigel in the story, “One man’s hard lesson after the Eiffel Tower’s darkness was mistaken for a moving tribute.”
Following the attacks in Paris, someone noticed that the Eiffel Tower lights were off and tweeted about the “moving tribute” to the people of France. Sometimes, a lot of the time, our tweets don’t go viral and we never think about them going viral until it actually happens.
Rurik Bradbury who owns a well known parody account on Twitter, @ProfJeffJarvis decided to tweet about the lights being off as well. His tweet got retweeted around 30,000 times with many large new organisations retweeting him. The problem is that the Eiffel Tower lights are routinely turned off at 1am and it had absolutely nothing to do with the Paris attacks. It is actually a law introduced in 2013 which is part of the French governments drive to save energy and cut out pollution.
Lights in public buildings, shop windows and facades are turned off across France between the hours of 1am to 7am and a failure to comply with that law results in fines.
Now it is true that the Eiffel Tower lights were initially dimmed in the days after the attacks in respect, however the lights being turned off at 1am as a mark of respect and solidarity to the people of France was a false rumour. The decision to dim Eiffel Tower lights was made after the rumour had been spread.
It is a harmless piece of information that went viral and some may think, well what harm was done? The answer is that there was no harm done but it shows how quickly things can spread around on a site like Twitter. So what happens when we go up to another level and something false gets spread around which affects peoples lives? Something like this?
The image on the right is the original, it is a selfie of Veerender Jubbal who is a Sikh man from Canada. The image on the right is an image which is clearly shopped but has been going viral around the world naming him as one of the Paris attackers. It is unknown who edited the image however it was likely done because…he criticised people who play video games.
No, that is not a joke.
Jubbal was critical of gamers during the Gamergate movement which started as a reaction to claims made about the private lives of a female games developer and a journalist.
Gamers are absolute garbage like I have been saying for a full year. People will not stop harassing, and bothering me. I am cute as gosh.
— Veerender Jubbal (@Veeren_Jubbal) November 14, 2015
As I mentioned, we don’t tend to question much in highly tense situations and this shopped image has been spread around like wildfire. It was picked up by Madrid based newspaper La Razon and he was named as one of the terrorists on the front page of the publication. La Razon has since apologised.
Jubbal is fighting back on his Twitter account but who knows how long slander such as this will follow him around for? Given how fast social media moves it is natural that mistakes and false information gets spread. The age of checking and double checking before something went to print is no longer as prominent as it was thanks to social media.
Information spreads before the source even has a chance to correct itself. Just be cautious of what is being spread around social media channels and remember not to take everything you see as being gospel.