Conspiracy theorists: leave Boston alone

Columnist

Let’s rewind a few weeks, back to when the Wichita State men’s basketball team was competing in Los Angeles for the Elite Eight. What a glorious time it was.

Remember that picture of Leonardo DiCaprio in a WSU baseball cap that made its rounds on Facebook? Then it turned out to be a fluke?

Oh, the tricks social media plays on us. 

On the same subject, I have never understood how people can find a photograph online and post it on the Internet and claim it to be theirs. Perhaps, as a journalist, I am particularly sensitive to this kind of activity. But unfortunately, those lying, no-good social media users were at it again last week after Monday’s Boston marathon bombing.

This past week, many of us discovered one of the downsides of instant news. Tweets, many of them from reputable news sources, gave out news updates on what was happening in Boston. For many reasons, including the source of the information, the battle for new information, and the truth of the information, many of the updates from Twitter were later found to be false.  

Since most of that information came from bystanders, and since facts couldn’t be double and triple checked because of the fight to be first to break the news, many of those updates were later found to be false.

However, all is forgiven. News sources update content as it comes in, and the public eventually understands the full scope of what’s happening.

But what is not acceptable is when people post photographs and unverified, bogus information online just to get famous, especially in the aftermath of a tragedy.

It’s not OK to post a picture of a young girl running in a race, claiming that she was the 8-year-old who lost her life in the bombings. Shortly after that picture went viral, the true name of the lost 8-year-old was released: Martin Richard, a boy.

It’s not OK to create a Twitter account with the handle @_BostonMarathon and claim the organization will donate $1 to victims of the bombings with every retweet. The lengths people will go to just to become “Twitter famous” astound me.

It’s not OK to post conspiracy theories about what really happened that day, April 15. Respect the families and leave that stuff alone. Someone, whom I’d like to thank, immediately created a webpage with the URL www.bostonmarathonconspiracy.com to keep theorists from conspiring about the incident. A big kudos to whomever made the site.

So next time you retweet, share, like or comment on social media sites, think long and hard about it. Do some fact checking, and find out if it’s the real deal or just a hoax to get somebody famous.