On Friday, shots were fired inside Los Angeles International Airport. As with most breaking news stories, news agencies took to Twitter to find and distribute information. Details were (and continue to be) conflicting, but preliminary reports say the shooting has ended.
As the information continued to roll out, the Globe and Mail reported that former NSA chief Michael Hayden had been shot and killed, and that a radical Christian group was taking credit for the shooting. The paper attributed this false information to the LAPD, but it appears the credit actually goes to a fake Twitter account:
The Globe and Mail tweet was deleted shortly after. The fake Twitter account seems to have intentionally stolen the logo of the real Breaking News account, which has a strong track record in breaking events. Unfortunately, this is yet another example of how social media can be used to spread inaccurate information during breaking news events. After the Sandy Hook school shooting, media outlets turned to Facebook and identified Ryan Lanza as the shooter, when, in fact, he was not. A similar situation unfolded on Reddit during the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers.
If the tweet was indeed the catalyst for this rumor, how is it that a fake Twitter account managed to trick a major news publication? Shouldn’t the fact that the account had only tweeted once have been a cause for caution?
The Globe and Mail has now changed its report to say “Reports that a former NSA chief was among the victims appear to be a hoax.”