Someone tweeting under the handle @comfortablysmug last night managed to launch the East Coast news establishment into a fact-checking frenzy. As BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski reported, this individual managed to falsely allege “a total blackout in Manhattan, . . . a flood on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and other things that didn’t happen.”
Twitter, the ultimate fact cop, busted out the recreational reporting damn fast, an accomplishment that prompted praise for the social network. Forbes wrote, “Turning to social media sources is reassuring in times like these.” And John Herrman wrote on BuzzFeed’s temporary platform, “Initial misinformation has consequences, and a consensus correction on Twitter won’t stop any number of these rumors from going viral on Facebook. There, your claims are checked by your friends; on Twitter, if they spread, they’re open to direct scrutiny from people who might actually know the truth.”
Strong points, though please consider: If a platform tempts people to fabricate stuff and does an excellent job of debunking the fabrications, how is that progress?
The better argument in favor of Twitter’s self-regulatory bona fides stems from activity on the platform today. Have a look, with the caveat that several tweets couldn’t be included in this list because of this newspaper’s decency standards:
Efficiency in correcting the meanderings of a serial jokester is one thing. Shaming that person; outing that person; bringing consequences to bear upon that person is another, equally significant thing.