19 May 2009 9:11 pm   //   Filed under: Media, Technology

Twitter kills Patrick Swayze. Will it kill again?

At 11:24 a.m. today, this Twitter message went out on an account with over 410,000 followers:

Image of Twitter post about Patrick Swayze

Patrick Swayze was alive, but the false report of his death was “retweeted” by thousands of users until, 50 minutes later, @BreakingNews knocked down its own report:

“JUST IN — A representative for Patrick Swayze tells People Magazine that the actor is still alive.”

This mistake was as predictable as it is unacceptable. As I wrote last month in a post about swine flu: “There’s the risk that an URGENT story that’s totally false could gain a lot of traction very quickly on Twitter.” And I singled out @BreakingNews as the “worst offender.” I hope they learn from this debacle and get better at simple reporting.

The death of an actor isn’t something that could cause a panic, but this was a 100% false news report of significance, and it spread very fast. Watch for more of this!