There aren’t words enough for a tragedy like that in Newtown, Connecticut today, one where dozen of people have been senselessly murdered, the majority being elementary school children. It’s horrific, and “horrific” itself falls short of being the appropriate word to use in a situation like this.
But for those of us who view the world’s happenings through the eyes of technology, it’s hard not to see the ramifications of tech companies’ decisions at play in today’s events.
From a technology perspective, one of the more frightening things to happen involves a mistake made by news outlets. Several fingered a young man as the shooter, before official confirmation. Some even shared this boy’s Facebook profile picture on a national broadcast.
Incidentally, Facebook just this week removed the ability for people to hide their profiles from Facebook search, which left the person whose profile was shared with no way to defend himself from the accusation. Subsequently, hate groups immediately sprung up on Facebook, using the boy’s picture, as numerous people expressed their shared horror and sadness in the way that some do: fits of rage.
Another user’s Twitter account is being retweeted, again, before police or officials have confirmed the association. “You decide,” read some of the tweets.
No, YOU do not decide. Police do.
In the rush to get information faster than competitors, news outlets aren’t fact-checking as they should be. And as for us, the informed citizens of the web, we are tweeting and re-tweeting before taking a moment to pause and think.
We should know better.
Side note: it’s also interesting to see once again how well Reddit is performing as a news filter. Here, for example, a timeline of information has appeared, with potential additions - and grief - shared in the comments below. This is similar Reddit’s efforts in the Colorado shooting, where the community spent days aggregating and filtering through the many truths, half-truths and mistakes made by the official news media.