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updated: 5/26/2018 4:45 PM

Oswald: Fake news floods social media after school shooting

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  • Astronauts in the International Space Station photographed the Sarychev volcano in Russia's Kuril Islands on June 12, 2009. Recent posters on social media claimed it was Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island.

    Astronauts in the International Space Station photographed the Sarychev volcano in Russia's Kuril Islands on June 12, 2009. Recent posters on social media claimed it was Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island.
    NASA photo

  • Britain's Queen Elizabeth is escorted by her husband Prince Philip at the wedding ceremony of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, but was not accompanied by Markle's beagle, Guy.

    Britain's Queen Elizabeth is escorted by her husband Prince Philip at the wedding ceremony of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, but was not accompanied by Markle's beagle, Guy.
    Associated Press

 
 

Investigators could not pinpoint a motive after a 17-year-old boy killed 10 people May 18 at Santa Fe High School in Texas, The Associated Press reported.

"(It was) one of the most heinous attacks that we've ever seen in the history of Texas schools," Gov. Greg Abbott told AP.

False information began circulating within hours of the deadly assault.

Several fake Facebook accounts were created using the boy's name, according to The Washington Post. One social media page included a photo of the suspected shooter that had been altered to show him wearing a hat from Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. As the social network deleted the accounts, new pages were created.

Santa Fe High student Paige Curry, 17, gave a chilling response to a reporter following the shooting, PolitiFact reported. "It's been happening everywhere," she said. "I've always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here, too." While speaking on camera, Curry avoided eye contact with the reporter, prompting a Twitter user to claim Curry was reading a prepared script and another tweet labeled her a "crisis actor." Neither claim has been substantiated.

As the event played out on TV, journalists worked to separate the true and false information during live reports. CBS-affiliated station KHOU in Houston used a video board in which the anchor displayed the verified information alongside the false reports as the news was breaking.

It has unfortunately become common for false and altered reports, rumors, hoaxes and political comments to follow tragic events. The Feb. 14 shooting of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was no exception.

While covering the shooting, Miami Herald reporter Alex Harris used Twitter to contact students, according to the News Literacy Project. Harris' tweet to a student in part said, "It's good to hear you guys are safe. I know you're overwhelmed right now, but if you're comfortable with it I'd like to ask you questions." The tweet was altered to make it look as if Harris asked the student, "Did you see the shooter? Was he white?" And a tweet Harris sent to another student was changed to appear as if she was asking the student if he could get "pictures or video of the dead bodies?" The doctored tweets used Harris's header and appeared authentic, though they were not.

Royal dog day

A Facebook post, shared thousands of times, claiming the Queen of England rode to the royal wedding with Meghan Markle's dog is false, according to Snopes.com.

Markle, who married Prince Harry on May 19, reportedly adopted Guy the Beagle from a kill shelter while she was working in Toronto. Queen Elizabeth II was seen riding in a car with an unidentified dog on the day before the wedding. The Queen owns two dachshund-corgi mixes. On the day of the event, she arrived unescorted.

Photo from Russia

There have been some incredible pictures of the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. The volcanic activity, which dramatically increased more than three weeks ago, has injured one person, according to The Washington Post.

But an image Facebook posters claim is from the Hawaii volcano is actually from a June 12, 2009, eruption of the Sarychev volcano in Russia, taken by astronauts on the International Space Station, according to NASA. The photo shows a plume that appears to be made up of brown ash and white steam as it rises above Matua Island.

The mislabeled post showed up on the social media feed of reader Mark Hardy of Aurora. Hardy said when he pointed out the falsehood to Facebook friends, the response was, "I don't care if it's fake news, it's such a great photo."

Did Capone do it first?

President Donald Trump took to Twitter last week demanding the Department of Justice investigate whether that department and the FBI "infiltrated or surveilled" his campaign. Then, a front page of the Chicago Sunday Tribune from Oct. 17, 1931, emerged, stating, "Capone demands inquiry into whether justice department 'infiltrated or surveilled' his gang."

The Trump tweet is real, but the Tribune front page is fake, Snopes.com reported.

The fake front about Chicago gangster Al Capone has the wrong date. Oct. 17, 1931, was a Saturday. The real headline, published Oct. 18, 1931, after the mobster was found guilty of tax evasion, reads, "U.S. jury convicts Capone."

Video exonerates cop

A Texas woman who was pulled over May 20 claimed the trooper said he would let her go in exchange for sex and when she said no, he sexually assaulted her, according to The Washington Post.

The accusations by Sherita Dixon-Cole, 37, made the rounds on social media and were shared by a social activist.

On Tuesday, body camera footage was released that contradicts her story. Video shows Dixon-Cole was asked to take a sobriety test, handcuffed and taken to the county jail where she was charged with driving while intoxicated.

Her attorney apologized for the claims, stating the video conflicted with what she told him.

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at boboswald33@gmail.com.

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