Shame On You, Twitter! American Airlines Relief Rumor Just A Hoax

by Chiara Atik · January 14, 2010

Ok, Twitter is getting out of control. Yesterday, irresponsible tweeting led to rumors of a fatal explosion in Grand Central. Today, we reported that American Airlines was donating free flights to Haiti to medical professionals. Well, they're not.-

Jill Zarin was just one of many people to report that American Airlines would donate free flights

@JillZarin American Airlines is taking doctors and nurses to Haiti for free. Please call 212-697-9767. Spread the word

(We emailed Jill for a comment, but she is out getting our friends over at Gawker their lunches.)

But airline spokesman Tim Smith denied that American Airlines was doing anything of the sort. When we tried calling the number that has at this point been posted all over the internet, the line, understandably, was busy. No doubt hundreds of well-meaning Americans, stunned by the images coming out of Haiti, were moved to donate to such a worth and altruistic cause. There was a similar rumor about Jet Blue, which also proved to be untrue.

CNN reported that the American Airlines rumor was untrue yesterday evening at 10:00 pm. However, the rumor is still going strong on Twitter, with about 20 people ReTweeting the number ever .18 seconds. Clearly, Twitter is even more powerful a medium than previously thought.

The Twitter hoaxes of late, whether deliberate or unintentional, show a dangerous side of a media platform which allows members to post and spread information immediately, without the benefit of fact checking or even necessarily reliable sources. Because we're so used to getting our news information from major media sites, we aren't used to having to analyze or qualify the information that pops up on our screens. If CNN is reporting something, we can be sure that some reporter has done the necessary fact evaluation for us; on Twitter, where things are reported breathlessly the moment something happens, we forget that we don't have that luxury.

Twitter is an extremely effective means of communicating information, and in many ways has effectively mobilized the online community into channeling their efforts to relief organizations and charities that actually work. But a few bag eggs, when given too much credence, might be enough to discredit the medium for everyone.

For a list of accredited charities and relief efforts that ARE putting your money to good use, go HERE.