Grand Central Evacuation: A Deliberate Hoax, Or Just Mass Media Hysteria?

by Chiara Atik · January 13, 2010

There was widespread confusion today after an alarming number of people began tweeting that Grand Central Station was being evacuated. What began as mild evacuation reports were quickly followed by updates that trains were skipping the station and SWAT teams were surrounding the building...-

At first, the posts were generally innocuous:

@AlisaRobinson: I was just at Grand Central and it got evacuated, NYPD everywhere. They wouldn't tell us why & I can't find any news. What's going on?

And things sort of spiraled from there, leading some of the most trusted twitter voices to pick up on the trending topic and tweet:

@Caro RT @brett: NYC Explosion in Vicinity Grand Central-NYPD, Mayor's Office: It's Steam, Not Terrorist Attack-One Fatality, At Least 15 Injured

But of course none of this was true, which only led to more confusion: did people deliberately prank the Twitterverse into thinking there had been a terrorist attack (HILARIOUS, guys...), or have people become too trusting of Twitter?

The recent evacuation of Newark Airport was mostly reported by eye-witnesses via Twitter, so it isn't a stretch to believe anything being posted with frequency on the trending topics.

Police DID confirm that there was a "suspicious package" earlier this afternoon, but it was quickly cleared, no SWAT Teams or widespread response necessary. So probably, people started reading initial tweets, retweeting, embellishing, fabricating, etc....

And if it was indeed a hoax? The only appropriate response for a prank that is so completely 21st Century, is the ever eloquent, ever elegant retort of the last century: So funny, I forgot to laugh.