Often times, Twitter is a useful tool for discovering information quickly. Sometimes, that information is just plain wrong, though. A Twitter spat surrounding the ongoing issues in Ferguson, Missouri has led to an account being suspended.
The crisis in Ferguson revolves around a police shooting involving 18-year-old Michael Brown. To date, the police have been oddly uncooperative about releasing any information, effectively creating a tense standoff with the citizens they’re sworn to protect.
The police have also taken umbrage with media coverage of the unfolding events. Traditional media has been severely hamstrung, leaving citizen journalism to pick up the slack. In doing so, at least one account has it all wrong.
TheAnonMessage is a Twitter account that claims affiliation with the hacker conglomerate Anonymous. Their quest to find which police officer actually shot Brown has led them to wrongly accuse someone not even on the police force. Though they won’t say who actually did shoot Brown, the police took to Twitter to say the man accused is not one of their officers. Twitter has since suspended the account, though another quickly took its place.
It raises an interesting series of questions, though. What do you do when the police have become uncooperative, and have all but created a police state? Citizen journalism is great for fact gathering, but parsing those facts is sometimes above their “pay grade”, so to speak.
The Twitter-sphere is still a great place to find information quickly, but beware the quick judgement that sometimes occurs as a byproduct. In this instance, someone totally unrelated to the case could have been in serious trouble. We won’t assign blame, because there is enough to go around, but it’s a lesson in caution ahead of consuming information.