False Tweets About Lady Sandy Herself
So, I’m sure everyone knows about Hurricane Sandy and her effects on NYC, but how many of you heard about the false tweets from Twitter user Comfortably Smug? Comfortably Smug—aka Shashank Tripathi—works in finance, has over 6500 followers on Twiter, and was respected on Twitter for knowing what he was talking about. That was before he became a serious troller during the chaos of Hurricane Sandy.
While everyone was freaking out about Sandy, Smug made it worse by posting false information on Twitter. He said things like the New York Stock Exchange was under three feet of water and ConEdison was going to shut down the power in Manhattan. Both of these were retweeted by over 700 people. CNN even reported this within a couple of hours.
I’ve talked before about how powerful Twitter can be and this is a great example of that. With its instant posts and far reaching arms, Twitter has the ability to create havoc within minutes. We can’t blame this on Twitter, though. This mess must be placed on the shoulders of those who fueled it. Smug, above others, is to blame. He was forced to resign from his position as campaign manager for Republican candidate for Congress and was threatened with jail time. He is still not the only one to blame, though. The people who retweeted him without fact checking are part of the problem.
Twitter, just like any other news source needs to be fact checked. Even in the midst of a hurricane, journalists can’t just go around posting information of that magnitude without making sure it’s true. Some very respected and powerful people retweeted Smug, including social media wiz Andy Carvin.
People are saying that authorities and the public overreacted to Smug’s tweets. They’re saying it wasn’t that big of a deal because no one was hurt and “3 feet of water” in the NYSE wouldn’t do much except damage the floors. While they see it as a harmless joke, others see it as a threat to safety. This threat has led to the question “Will the law ever draw the line in the sand when it comes to the limits of protected speech?” If nothing else, Smug has started to threaten our freedom of speech with his careless words and action.