Bad info can spread at lightning speed


Good afternoon,

More than a month has passed, but that does not mean a couple of incidents over the holidays should fade into memory.

I am referring to the situations we saw with chemical company Croda and Christiana Mall.

Out of an abundance of caution it was decided to close the Delaware Memorial Bridge after Croda reported a leak of a volatile and dangerous chemical from its new plant near the bridge approach.

Neighbors were asked to shelter in place, but it was clear that land-based telephone notification system is becoming obsolete in the era of mobile devices.

We did see some wild speculation as people tethered to their phones Googled the name of the chemical in question.

A situation with some parallels took place at Christiana Mall. Someone knocked over a display and caused a sharp sound that some took for gunfire. The mall was evacuated as panic ensued on a busy shopping night.

In response,management doubled down on its long-running rule on unaccompanied young people during weekends and the police presence was sizable for a time.

In both of the above cases, it was clear that social media has an abilityto spread premature and sometimes erroneous information. A few bad actors typically add to the confusion by deliberately spreading falsehoods.

The rumor mill is nothing new. What is different is the velocity that comes with shares and texts.

The media, for the most part, handled the situation in a professional manner. There were a few cases where it would have been useful to have waited a few minutes to verify information. That does not stop a floodof bad info and political posturing on Facebook.

In the Christiana Mall case,this humble site chose to wait a while and not run with unconfirmed information. A breaking news email was issued once it became clear that no gun was involved. The post was updated to let people that the mall was open the following day.

We are in a new world with instant communications. Law enforcement, the media and other interested parties need to take a hard look at the two situations and at minimum take a few notes for future reference. – Doug Rainey.

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