December 6, 2014

Social media aids in spread of emergency news

uofl campus crime

Dec. 1 marked the second time this semester social media has helped spread the news of a shooting threat to campus.

A threat earlier this semester was found on 4chan, a posting site, and last week’s incident was sparked by a tweet.

“We had a call from somebody on campus that saw the tweet that was sent out and alerted us,” said Kenny Brown, U of L’s assistant chief of police. Brown said ULPD followed up by doing some “media tracking” to follow updates.

Karen Freberg, a professor specializing in social media, said social media plays a “crucial” role in times of crisis.

“Social media, particularly Twitter, is where people are looking for answers and updates about the situation,” Freberg said. “This situation raised a lot of concern and reaction that spread virally within not only the U of L community, but the city and region as well.

“If this situation was not addressed proactively on social media, it could have escalated into a bigger situation and result in more fear and anxiety for everyone involved.”

U of L spokesperson John Drees said official information goes out through the rave alert system, first through text messages, then through emails and messages on U of L phones. Drees said official notices were also placed on U of L Twitter and Facebook accounts on Dec. 1 because the incident was social media-based.

“U of L was very proactive in addressing this situation not only on one social media platform, but several platforms with the same information,” Freberg said. “The messages were clear, concise and specifically addressing the situation.”

Freberg named three steps for social media in these situations: have a presence as a credible source, the ability to be the voice of authority to present confirmed information and to monitor the topic on social media to “be informed of what is being shared and discussed” to prevent the spread of false information.

Michael Paoloni, who runs the Elle Raiser Twitter account, has nearly 16 thousand followers, including several U of L students.

“When an emergency situation at U of L occurs, I use my followers the same way U of L would use their rave alert: to keep everyone updated,” Paoloni said. He retweeted real-time updates, including official and student posts.

“I always try to make sure what is being posted, or reposted, is credible and relevant to the current situation,” Paoloni said. “It’s about bringing awareness to the situation.”

“I don’t necessarily consider myself a news source, even though there are plenty of people that do,” Paoloni said. “I don’t go out and find stories to report on or even interview people, I leave that to the media. I try and keep everyone updated on whats going on at U of L and in the city of Louisville.”

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