During big, breaking events such as Hurricane Irene, the East Coast earthquake and uprisings in the Middle East, social media editors monitor Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. They ask people what they’re seeing and spread eyewitness accounts and images to a broader audience.
Yet they’re finding that it’s not enough simply to share accurate information. They also must try to stem the flow of inaccurate information.
They become debunking editors, real-time Snopes who cast a skeptical eye on the dramatic photo that’s making the rounds. Even if they decide that something is a hoax, simply declining to share it isn’t enough.
“I think there is a hunger out there for us to debunk misinformation when it’s out there,” said Liz Heron, social media editor for The New York Times.
Saturday night, as Irene approached New York, Reuters Social Media Editor Anthony De Rosa tweeted, “There’s an image going around of the East River cresting. It is fake.”
Lexi Mainland, one of De Rosa’s counterparts at the Times, retweeted it, adding, “Please don’t RT it.”
Another effort to fight misinformation occurred on Twitter, but behind the scenes. Late Saturday night, an employee of a company called Storyful posted this to the company’s protected Twitter account, accessible to the company’s subscribers:
CLIENTS: FYI … a number of fake Irene images are now circulating on the Web. We are running an image check on all images we see.
Steve Myers, Poynter, Social media editor role expands to include fighting misinformation during breaking news.