UK riots: nine ways to use Twitter responsibly
Twitter has been awash with false rumour and speculation. How can you cut through the sea of inaccurate tweets and find out what’s really going on?
Twitter has been awash with rumour, as well as useful information. Photograph: Iain Masterton / Alamy
As the riots spread across London and the rest of the country over the last few days, Twitter has been awash with rumour, exaggeration and downright untruth alongside people spreading useful news.
Here are a few simple pointers on how to get the most out of Twitter as news breaks – and how to avoid scaring people in the process.
Unless you can see it happening, don’t tweet about it.
It can be immensely tempting to pass on the vital information that – for instance – Primark in Tooting has burned to the ground. It’s a tremendously sad thought for devotees of leopard-print leggings and cheap handbags in south London, so it’s no surprise that the news spread like wildfire on Monday night.
The problem was that it was entirely untrue, and served only to spread fear among people living there. In this case, there was a pall of smoke hanging over the high street, and people who couldn’t see the source put two and two together and came up with 47 – and then their friends helpfully made things worse by retweeting it.
Bear in mind that some people are making jokes.
This is how the Tooting Primark story began: with people making silly rhyming jokes about stealing in Ealing and looting in Tooting. The problem there is that only one of those things was actually happening at the time, but people latched onto the phrase as though it was true. If you see those sorts of casual references, bear in mind they might just be there to make a punchline. Once again, if you’re not certain, ask.