Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Hideous Display of Abusing Social Networking

Normally, the posts that I write here at are all about Education and Technology.  Occasionally I diverge from this and hop up on my soapbox.  This post will start out that way and make it's way full circle (or not).  You see, I'm angry.

Last night I was at a neighbor's house for his daughter's birthday party.  While everyone else was watching Olympic coverage, I decided to check my Blackberry to see what my PLN (Personal Learning Network) was talking about on Twitter.  I happened to notice one RT (re-tweet) in particular that sent chills through my body:  (I will be using screenshots and hyperlinks them at this point to illustrate and prove that this really happened - pay particular attention to the time stamps)
My friend @jswiatek sent out the following post::

I wrote Jerry back and said if this is not a hoax, it really shows how powerful a tool Twitter can be.  You see, for the past few months I have been presenting at Educational Technology Conferences about the power of Twitter.  At the same time of course, I was hoping that no one was truly in this situation, but just in case I Re-Tweeted it as well:

At this point I started feeling helpless.  Who do I contact to get help to that address?  The host of the party suggested CNN and I thought that was a good idea, but I wanted to be sure before contacting a major news network.  So I excused myself and walked back to my house to do some research.  On the way I sent the following messages:

Once I was in front of a computer, it was time to research.  The first thing I did was look at @biodome10's profile:

As I am reading, the posts don't look good and the situation looks grim.  So now to find out more about @biodome10. Does he live in Chile? What is he doing there? The tweets a few hours earlier seemed pretty normal. So, I did a Google search for @biodome10 and the word hoax.  Imagine my surprise, when I came across the headline "Tweet Cheat: Fake Reporter Sparks Controversy"  (click the link to read the article) regarding a controversy @biodome10 was involved in reporting Chris Henry's death before it happened.  
Basically the report stated "At around 5 p.m., on an account with Fraley's name, photograph, and a link to the DMN Web site, Twitter user @BioDome10 released a series of tweets that claimed that Henry died. At the time, Henry was battling for his life at a North Carolina hospital, and wouldn't die for another 12 hours."'
OK, so what is going on here? Gerry Fraley is a reporter for the Dallas Morning News? Let's see what he looks like.  Time for another Google search, this time for Gerry Fraley video which turned up this link. Yup, sure looks like @biodome10 's avatar and more and more like a hoax.  But, what if he was on vacation or visiting a daughter he claimed to be trapped with.  At this point it was time to get off the web and make a personal contact.  I looked up the Dallas Morning News and found their contact number as 214-977-8222 and called.  Meanwhile, I also sent this tweet to keep my Twitter friend @jswiatek informed of what I am finding (of course by including @biodome10 whoever this is will see it as well): 

A few minutes later, I'm on the phone with the receptionist at DMN, I ask for some information on Gerry Fraley and get patched though to another department.  I explain the situation to this individual and ask if Mr. Fraley is on assignment in Chile, who after a brief pause connects me to the sports department.  The sports department seems a bit shocked that one of their reporters is buried under the rubble in Chile and assure me that he is safe and sound.  I explain that I was just a concerned citizen and expressed that someone should look into Mr. Fraley's conduct.  The person I was speaking with rather quickly came to the conclusion that the account must have been hacked (funny, since the reports I was reading all said it was an impostor).  At any rate, I asked that they look into it and if this did turn out to be some kind of sick joke suggested that he be brought up on some kind of disciplinary actions.  I was again assured that "Frails" would never do such a thing.  Before I hung up the phone, I noticed that during the time I was being shuffled around DMN @biodome10 was miraculously rescued approximately 1 minute after I called him out! I let the gentleman from DMN know he was indeed safe and sound right after I called his bluff and hung up the phone:

Now, what can be learned from this?  Certainly, don't believe everything you read on Twitter or anywhere on the web for that matter.  As far as @biodome10 is concerned you are a very sick individual.  Whether you are an imposter pretending to be Mr. Fraley, a hacker who decided this would be a good joke or it is indeed Gerry Fraley, you have a very serious problem and should be brought up on some form of charges.  What if authorities had responded to that address and others died as they were wasting time?

Second, I am certainly not sure what to believe.  It was indeed a hoax (just not sure who perpetrated it), because although @biodome10 continued for a few hours to play off that he had been rescued in Chile, his most recent tweets only a few hours later are back to being sports related:

Next, I believe I just proved what it means to be a responsible Digital Citizen.  Before believing everything that appears on your browser or cell phone, do your homework.  As you can see from start to finish it only took about an hour to expose this hoax.  Meanwhile, all of @biodome10s followers are freaking out thinking he's buried and dying.  A search on now shows that the hoax has been exposed for what it is, but last night was a different story.  Hopefully, this is the educational lesson that you can share with your students.

Climbing down off my soapbox now!
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