Democracy!

Today, Let’s Remember Everything Hurricane Sandy Just Taught Us About Social Media Misinformation

Skepticism is the order of the day.
 Today, Lets Remember Everything Hurricane Sandy Just Taught Us About Social Media Misinformation

REMAIN CALM. (Photo: Flickr.com/dpstyles)

Parts of New York and New Jersey are still without power from the last major news event and yet here we are, in the throes of election day. And with cleanup efforts still ongoing, there’s really no excuse for anyone who forgets one of the lessons we just learned about the rapid speed at which misinformation courses through social media in general and Twitter in particular.

For the love of God, as you go about your day for the next several hours, please take almost everything you read on Twitter with a grain of salt. No, a barrel. Maybe an entire salt lick.

At the height of the hurricane hysteria, mixed in with the wisecracks and genuinely useful information were outright, bald-faced lies (meet @comfortablysmug, everybody). But perhaps even more pernicious were the rumors and false reports. Remember the Coney Island hospital fire that wasn’t? The Con Ed workers supposedly trapped? The system-wide subway shutdown that would last through the end of the week? The Fire Department turning to Twitter, as an alternative to an overburdened 911 system?

Not a one of them was true, but you’re not alone if you feel for at least one of them. Gawker’s conclusion: Twitter is one big old lie generator. A dynamo of bullshit, if you will.

The next few hours are going to be, if anything, more insane. This is a nationwide event, of global interest, one that most people are constitutionally incapable of shutting up about. This is also a nation where, after four years,  there are a few holdouts who still don’t believe President Obama was born in America.

So when videos like this start bubbling up from Reddit and onto your Twitter feed, please remember to take a deep breath and do a little Googling around before you conclude a voter fraud conspiracy is afoot.

Unfortunately, however, it appears that at least a few of these “vote white” tweets are for real.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com