With many NYers still without power since Sandy swept through the city, many have been staying abreast of the news and keeping in touch via social media. According to the Twitter app Hootsuite, “Sandy” was mentioned 4.8 million times on social media sites Monday, up from 1.9 million the day before. Millions turned to social media to update friends and family, find news and upload photos. According to The Wall Street Journal, Instagramreported that every second 10 pictures with the hashtag Sandy were uploaded.
But social media wasn’t entirely reliable. On Monday night, tweets from the handle @ComfortablySmug deliberately reported false information such as the New York Stock Exchange was under three feet of water and that all of Manhattan went dark. The NYSE refuted it, but not before it was retweeted hundreds of times and announced on CNN and the Weather Channel. According to GigaOm, BuzzFeed exposed the person behind the fake tweet as Shashank Tripathia, a hedge fund analyst based in NY. It’s not clear if Tripathia could be prosecuted for disseminating false information during an emergency, but according to Ken Paulson, a lawyer at the First Amendment Center, lies are constitutionally protected except in very rare exceptions.
But City Councilman Peter Vallone said he’s going to the DA over @ComfortablySmug’s false tweets.