Twitter is fast becoming the first place to hear about current events and news topics, given that it only takes one person with a phone to break a story. Last year a man in Pakistan famously tweeted about some helicopter activity nearby that later turned out to be the raid on the Abbottabad compound that killed Bin Laden. However, you cannot believe everything you read on Twitter, and sometimes getting it wrong can have a knock-on effect.
A tweet sent on Monday, from an account claiming to represent Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been killed or injured. Although the account has since been deleted, two more tweets confirmed his death:
Following the news, the markets responded quickly. Only 16 minutes after the first tweet, the price of a barrel of crude oil began to spike. When the oil prices closed that day the price had increased by a dollar (give or take a few cents) to $92.20 per barrel. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Phil Flynn – Price Futures Group Analyst – said “A well-placed story can move the market, and that looks like what happened.”
The @MiniInterRussia account proved to be fake, and upon investigation of archived tweets it was shown that it regularly attempted to spread death rumours, with subjects including Nelson Mandela and Francis Ford Coppola.
But it’s not just this account at it. Twitter has been the source of many a death rumour in it’s relatively short existence. It seems no one is sacred… Jeff Goldblum, Kanye West, Jon Bon Jovi, President Obama, Morgan Freeman and Pope Benedict XVI have all had their ‘deaths’ spread like wildfire across the micro-blogging site.
So while Twitter is a very good tool to quickly confirm something you may have heard, always make sure you can find a reliable source, or beware the consequences of perpetuating the rumour!