Viral and Mis-Quoted

Here is an article that deals with responses to Osama Bin Laden’s death and how the social media world blew up after the fact. We talked in class about how social media makes us so dynamically inter connected in a way unimaginable a couple years ago. In this article the author describes how after Osama was pronounced dead there were two quotes put up, one by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mark Twain that in fact were wrong. However in no time people we re-posting these quotes in both their facebook and Twitter accounts and the mis-quotes became a viral sensation. The MLK was a mashup between one person’s own words with the first sentence combined with a true MLK quote starting with the second sentence. The Mark Twain quote was altered slightly. Both can be seen in link to the article.

This connects with a couple of things we discussed in class. I believe social media still is not a place to get credible news and we must still look to our major networks and trusted anchors to deliver us the correct details of what has happened, who said what, and where something took place. Social media, still in its infancy stage, is an easy environment for someone to start a rumor that can quickly become “fact” over the internet, later to be discredited by those news outlets with the correct resources to report the stories. Secondly, this mis-quote was tweeted by a regular person who linked the quote to her facebook page. Her friends then saw the quote and retweeted and re-posted and soon Penn Gillette from “Penn & Teller” retweeted it to his 1.6 million followers and the quote was everywhere. It’s amazing how connected we are now in the digital age. 1 in 6 people in the world are on one site where we can all reach one another.


4 thoughts on “Viral and Mis-Quoted

  1. I was just watching the Obama visit to the WTC on NBC, and one of the segments was a “Social Media Update.” The anchor was literally reading tweets with the hashtag #obamanyc. They are giving credibility to anonymous twitter accounts and also shouting out @questlove.

    It might not be 100% credible yet, but if traditional media is giving it attention, it’s credibility is going to keep increasing.

  2. While social media clearly is not always a credible source for breaking news, its ability to provide real-time coverage cannot be discounted. When the world first heard about the earthquake in Japan there were many videos documenting the destruction that individuals had filmed with their smartphones. Mainstream media networks were not able to send camera crews to the scene(s) right away so websites like CNN were linking to YouTube videos that Japanese citizens had uploaded. As smartphone adoption grows it enables eyewitnesses to inform and update the world as the news unfolds. Will their accounts of events always be accurate? Of course not. But it’s clear that social media, especially on-the-scene social media via mobile phones, can enrich news coverage and be a valuable asset to both individuals and journalists.

  3. Hi Kevin,

    I agree with your comment that social media are not yet a credible source of information. In my opinion there is a clear overlap between the information shared over social networks and the one transmitted through traditional media, but the media are fundamentally two distinct things, and serve different purposes.

    Social media are powerful tools and it is our responsibility, as information consumers and “broadcasters”, to critically think about the information we are receiving, and check on the source credibility before sharing it. What happened with MLK’s quote has been happening forever as a consequence of traditional social interaction, a rumor originated from two friends conversation over coffee, now social media allows the rumor to spread faster and reach more people. Responsible people should just do their homework before cutting and pasting what they read.


  4. Remember the old game telephone. The first message was remarkably different from the last. Twitter and Facebook is the game of telephone times a billion. I agree with you guys. Users must be responsible when posting on their wall or tweeting. Readers must take all the postings as a grain of salt.

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