Twitter is not a newswire but the most wonderful idea virus.

The evening (I’m in the UK) when Michael Jackson died uncovered some startling truths about realtime shouting/twittering.

Everyone is happy to jump on a story whether it’s true or not, without a smidgen of regard for following up the facts. When I logged on to Twitter at 11.50pm and I saw a handful of tweets telling me that MJ was dead, first things first check the valid news sources. Since the story was from TMZ and I’d never heard of TMZ, the site only half worked and looked like a bag of onions I was a little wary of it’s content. Reuters were reporting nothing, PA and AP newswires had nothing, only reports that the emergency services had been called.

Back on Twitter though, if TMZ says it’s true then it’s worth saying he’s dead anyway. Then that spilled over to Facebook and the same pre-news news had the same wildfire effect. It took another twenty minutes before the real confirmation in the LA Times came through, a trusted source, I can live with that. Poor chap RIP.

No matter, but in the same timeframe we learn of Jeff Goldblum’s demise while filming in New Zealand. The Twitter sneezing army went to work just as quick and Jeff’s death and it became a trending topic. All very well except he wasn’t dead, or in New Zealand. Stephen Colbert summed led the tributes nicely on the Colbert Report with Jeff Goldblum paying tribute to himself on the same show.

Twitter is the perfect idea virus, put something out there and get some sneezers to shout about it even more. All very well when it’s something like a cool website, a product or a hot boy/girl for example. Twitter is not a news feed, well certainly not a trusted one. It’s an immediate news source which is great but the danger is that it’s crowdsource and unchecked. Spells danger to me in every sense of the word.

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