Fake Boston Stories About Marathon Bombing Go Viral on Facebook, Twitter

Wednesday, 17 Apr 2013 01:07 PM

By Alexandra Ward

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In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attacks Monday, fake stories have been popping up online, gaining traction on social media and skyrocketing to viral status.

Sites like Twitter and Facebook are perfect for quick, fast news, but sometimes what's posted isn’t always true, especially in times of crisis. Often, information and photos are unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally) false.

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"On days like this, Twitter shows its best & worst: loads of info at huge speed, but often false & sometimes deliberately so," tweeted Mark Blank-Settle, of the BBC College of Journalism.

From the conspiracy theories posted on Facebook to the fake tweets floating around, here are five viral stories being spread about the Boston Marathon bombings that simply aren't true.


1. Tweets from @Hope4Boston


One Twitter account, @Hope4Boston, immediately started publishing hoax stories, adding to the firestorm of rumors about the ages and genders of the people that died.

"R.I.P to the two 8 year olds that died due to the explosions in Boston, Massachusetts. One was a boy and one was a girl. #PrayForBoston," read one message on the account, which has since been suspended.

The account's operators also published fake photos of supposed victims.


2. A young girl died right at the finish line


Rumors swirled shortly after the explosions that a young girl running the marathon in honor of Sandy Hook victims was killed at the finish line. A photo of the supposed victim went viral, but a closer look reveals that her runner's bib from the Joe Cassella 5k in Great Falls, Va.

The image drew sympathy from believers who flooded Twitter and Facebook postings with their comments until Joe Cassella Foundation, an organization that fundraises for the families of ill children, officials refuted the fake photo on its website.

"We would like to clarify that the picture circulating on the web and Twitter of a little girl wearing a Joe Cassella 5K bib claiming to have been killed at the Boston marathon is being used fraudulently," read the statement on its website.


3. Authorities shut down cell service


News spread online Monday that Boston police had ordered a cell service shutdown to prevent an attacker from detonating any more bombs via mobile phone. Some mainstream news outlets even picked up the fake story, including the Associated Press, which cited a law enforcement official.

In reality, there was likely a cell outage, says Politico. Heavy usage in the aftermath of the bombings likely caused dropped calls, spotty Internet, and delays in text messages.


4. Man planned to propose, girlfriend killed


One of the viral images from the attacks is a man in a red shirt kneeling over a woman lying on the ground. The photo was widely circulated online but with a fake story attached to it.

"The man in the red shirt planned to propose to his girlfriend as he crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon, but she passed away" read a caption that accompanied the photo. "Most of us will never experience this amount of emotional pain."


In reality, the man is just comforting an injured woman at the finish line, according to the caption posted on the official Getty Images site, where the photo originated.


5. The conspiracy theories


Twitter and Facebook are also rampant breeding grounds for the various scenarios being touted by conspiracy theorists about the Boston attacks. From a mystery man on the roof, to a suspicious memorial, most of the theories sound ridiculous.


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