Tweets, like milk, should come with expiration dates.
Case in point: The Mail Online wrongly claimed that a truck drove down the sidewalk on Oxford Street in London last month. The source for its inaccurate claim? A ten-day-old tweet saying “there is a lorry stopped on the pavement in Oxford street, police all around it and blood on the floor.”
There was an incident — a false alarm — at Oxford Street Nov. 30. Apparently in reporting on that, the Mail Online came across a Nov. 14 tweet where a man named Dan Smallbone tweeted he saw a “lorry stopped on the pavement” and that there was “police all around and blood on the floor.” The Mail thought it was current and inaccurately included it in its reporting. (The Nov. 14 incident involved a window-cleaner who fell and was injured.)
The Mail has since published a correction and apology, claiming that the error was only published for seven minutes and it was because of a “grave error.”
In a Nov. 30 online clarification and correction, the Mail wrote,
“In an article published on 24 November, we briefly reported that a witness to the panicked scenes on Oxford Street had seen a lorry mounting the pavement. Despite the fast-moving situation, reporting this particular information that was not in line with the mass of eye-witness reports was a grave error. The failure was swiftly spotted internally and the story containing the inaccurate information was only live for exactly seven minutes. The detail had been placed into the headline of the article and tweeted by MailOnline’s official account before quickly being deleted. We deeply regret that it was ever published at all, however briefly, and we apologise for any distress that this may have caused.”
The Mail Online also issued an apology, the Huffington Post reported. That apology reads:
“As in any major incident these days, social media was awash with confused reports from Oxford Circus tonight, many of which turned out to be inaccurate.
“It is the job of the mainstream media to strike a balance between reflecting what is being reported from the scene without spreading false facts.
“And, despite the fast-moving situation, reporting this particular information that was not in line with the mass of eye-witness reports was a grave error.
“The failure was swiftly spotted internally and the story containing the inaccurate information was only live for exactly seven minutes.
“Nevertheless MailOnline deeply regrets that it was ever published at all, however briefly, and has instituted an urgent inquiry to establish exactly how it happened. “
#oxfordstreet There is a lorry stopped on the pavement in Oxford street, police all around it and blood on the floor, it's definitely the aftermath of something maybe just a crash but nothing on the news… Anyone have a clue?
— Dan Smallbone (@DanSmallbone) November 14, 2017
Daily Mail one of the UK’s biggest newspaper tweeted about a lorry ploughing into people at Oxford Circus, then deleted it when it turns out to be fake news. Well that’s one way to spread a rumor. pic.twitter.com/nULu0G4lbe
— Stephen Brian Lowe (@StephenBLowe) November 24, 2017