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Deliberate Twitter mistake highlights online misinformation

Posted on February 15, 2021

 

Last week, a Canadian health resource dropped what at first glance appeared to be a horrible mistake, but was later revealed to be a clever point about questioning what we see online.

After the Superbowl on February 7th, the Ottawa Public Health Twitter account put out the following tweet, where it seemed like a certain “Bruce” had not done his job.

Not surprisingly, other Twitter users were quick to lampoon “Bruce” and his organisation for the apparent error, but for once, it turned out that the joke was on them for being too quick to believe what they saw.

In follow-up tweets, the organisation pointed out that those who had carried out a little investigative work would have realised that this was not a genuine mistake. For a start, by analysing the account’s other tweets, viewers could have worked out that the tweet was not prescheduled, and they also might have questioned what the point would be in creating a placeholder image with “[Insert winning team logo here]” written on it. As the account notes, it would just have been a “redundant amount of work”.

Perhaps most importantly though, why would the account have chosen not to delete it, even when so many other Twitter users had commented and retweeted on it to pour scorn on what they thought was a terrible gaffe?

Ottawa Public Health concluded by advising us to think critically when we see something online.

Many people are quick to believe and share fake news they see on the web, which is of particular concern to groups like Ottawa Public Health as the world looks to win its battle with COVID-19. Last week, a video on the BBC News website showed reporter Sima Kotecha analysing a bogus video about coronavirus treatment sent to her by her mother. Interestingly, Kotecha’s mother said that even though she didn’t believe the claims that inhaling steam can safeguard against the virus, she still shared the video anyway.

At Engage Web, we commend the outside-the-box thinking of Ottawa Public Health. Perhaps it’s not before time that someone made the Twitter smarty-pants community realise they might not be as smart as they think!

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John Murray
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