Social media and the Boston bombings

I was at work when bombs exploded in the streets of Boston during the city’s infamous marathon. As a runner myself, I had so many questions, but without access to a TV, I turned to Twitter for answers and updates. I wasn’t the only American who logged into a social media account for coverage on the Boston Marathon bombings. According to the Pew Research Center, a quarter of Americans received their information about the bombings from social media.

Social media is a great tool for news seekers, but it also has rapidly increased the flow of information, which can lead to more inaccuracies by news agencies online. Even CNN tweeted inaccurate information after the attacks on Boston. It’s no surprise that rapidly evolving situations can also lead to ethical concerns.

It was the Boston Marathon bombings that forced me to reevaluate the content that I share on social media. After the attacks, I retweeted a photo of a victim that included a heart-wrenching story. I later discovered that this information was completely made up. As sad as it is, there are people who try to capitalize on tragedies. If you’re going to share information that you find on social media, it’s best to make sure that it comes from a reliable source. Even reliable sources get it wrong sometimes, so do your own investigating before you share any content on social media.

Several broadcasters and companies were blamed for trying to capitalize on the Boston tragedy. One broadcaster posted a photo of one of the victims in his hospital bed on Facebook. He then asked his followers to “like” the photo to wish the boy a speedy recovery. Because I don’t know the broadcaster or his relationship to the victim, I can’t accurately speculate on his motive for posting the photo. If the post was his way of getting page likes, it’s obviously unethical. However, his post could have been to raise the boys spirits and to raise awareness (money) to help the victim. Only he knows his true intentions.

Ford also got put into the spotlight after the attacks. The car company posted the following image:

Boston Marathon bombings, social media, ethics, Ford

Many people scolded the company for using a tragedy to promote products. Once again, without being the one making decisions for Ford, I can’t really speculate on their intent. I think it would have been in better taste if the company had dropped the Ford logo in the corner and used an image of real first responders on the scene in Boston. This approach would have made it seem less like an advertisement, and more like a genuine thank you.

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