By David Worthington | Friday, May 15, 2009 at 6:27 pm
Someone caused a bit of a kerfuffle on Twitter today after he or she tweeted that California’s controversial Proposition 8 had been overturned by the State Supreme Court, crediting @LATimes. Slight problem–it wasn’t true.
The court has taken the constitutionality of the amendment under its consideration, so it wasn’t unreasonable to believe that the LA Times somehow gotten the scoop on its decision. That is what just one one careless person came to believe.
The culprit tweeter linked a story written dated May 16, 2008, when the court overturned a law barring same-sex marriage, because it violated the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee.
Any “followers” who clicked the link and examined the date on the story would have discovered that, but many chose to not take the extra step to verify what they read, and reflexively re-tweeted the “news.” Word inevitably made it way back to the LA Times’ own Twitter feed where its 19,700-plus followers began to see it– a perfect storm of misinformation.
There is a degree of trust built into the social mesh of Twitter, because people select who they want to follow. That trus does not substitute the fact that most people that blog about news on Twitter are not journalists, and do not have editors verifying their work. Twitter is place to find news, but it is not a news source.
Another root cause is the at-a-glance, all-the-world in 140 characters, aspect of it all. People consume information rapidly, and can react to something that they see on Twitter without thinking. Even friends make mistakes, and in this case, friends of friends propagated that mistake.
There are consequences when just anyone can post something online –consequences that could affect people’s lives, reputations, and even their livelihood. That is why print publications have editors, and television networks have guards placed outside of newsrooms. People’s emotions and legal rights were needlessly toyed with today.