Sunday, November 04, 2012

Caveat Twitter




# 6693



As if the job facing local, state, and Federal emergency officials dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane/Hybrid Sandy were not enough of a challenge, FEMA is reporting that some people are spreading misinformation on social media platforms like Twitter, and Facebook.


This from last night’s FEMA BLOG.


Rumor Control

There is a lot of misinformation circulating on social networks. Check here for an on-going list of rumors and their true or false status.

  • November 3: There have been recent blog posts and social media traffic expressing that FEMA is out of bottled water.  This is FALSE.  We are providing water to our state partners for distribution.
    For New York locations and times of food and water distribution centers and daytime warming centers, visit
  • November 3: There have been calls and posts from citizens related to the failure of the Old Bridge Township water system in Old Bridge, New Jersey. This is FALSE. The Old Bridge Municipal Utilities Authority (OBMUA) has reported that the water system is stable and safe and that there are no usage restrictions currently in place.
  • November 3: Food stamps being given out to residents of New York and New Jersey as a part of FEMA assistance. This is FALSE. For information on the types of assistance available to those impacted by Sandy, call 1-800-621-FEMA.
  • November 2: There is a spike of traffic related to FEMA hiring cleanup crews in both New York and New Jersey. This is FALSE. For information on how you can volunteer in these communities visit


The fault here doesn’t lie with the medium, but with the messenger. Why anyone would deliberately mislead people already suffering from a disaster is beyond my understanding, but some extremely small number of people out there do.


Most experts agree that Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms have provided excellent service during this, and other, crises.


As I wrote, more than three years ago in It Depends who you follow, being selective about who you follow on twitter – or `friend’ on Facebook – is your best defense against inane, annoying, or misleading messages.


During a crisis, like last week’s storm, many of us opened up our feeds using  hashtags like #SANDY or #Frankenstorm to try to gather as much information as we could from multiple sources. 


While useful, it is important to remember that this temporarily invites strangers into our feed, removing the filter of `trusted friends’ we normally maintain in our social media lives. 


All of which means that Caveat Lector – or in this case - Caveat Twitter, must be our guide. 


I’m a huge fan of twitter, and I used it every day.


But to avoid compounding a felony, I always think twice before re-tweeting a message from someone I don’t know well enough to trust. 

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