As social media sources become important tools in emergency management and response, and what is posted there is taken more seriously, there are increasing consequences for posting false or potentially threatening information. This raises all kinds of ethical questions - for example, is it OK to post false information on April 1st? Or is it like shouting "FIRE!" in a movie theater? Even more complex are the problems of social media (especially Twitter) not having the capability to provide context for posts, such as when irony, sarcasm or esoteric humor is intended.

What are the consequences of posting false information on social media?

False post about water on stock exchange floor during Hurricane Sandy

An interesting example is the hacking of the @AP Associated Press Twitter account, and the subsequent posting of a false tweet about an explosion at the White house:

aptweet.jpeg

Look what happened to the stock market when this came out - this is probably due to algorithms that automatically extract breaking news from Twitter and drive stock market transactions accordingly (source - Wall Street Journal)

OB-XE876_P1BL25_E_20130423162531.jpg

However what is also interesting is how quickly the information was corrected on Twitter, and information about it being a hack flooded any remaining retweeting of the false information (note how quickly the stock market recovers). For example, this was a slice of a search for "obama AP" a few hours later:

aptweetcorrection.jpeg

Use of irony, sarcasm, esoteric humor in social media

British person detained at US immigration after twitter post
Indiana University student arrested for making "threat" on twitter