False tweets swarmed the Internet during the height of Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29, claiming floodwaters of more than three feet had entered the New York Stock Exchange.
“BREAKING: Confirmed flooding on NYSE. The trading floor is flooded under more than 3 feet of water,” read a tweet by Twitter user, “Comfortablysmug.”
The message was retweeted more than 600 times and reached millions of people, including reporters. Soon after its posting, the tweet was reported by media including CNN and The Weather Channel.
The tweet was on the Internet and aired on television for almost an hour by the time officials got word of the erroneous tweet and quickly dispersed information of the inaccuracy.
Except for a few worried calls from traders and regulators, the story did no lasting harm, said NYSE spokesman Ray Pellecchia, who nonetheless questioned how the erroneous report was spread.
“It’s unclear how something so wrong and so easily checkable could get out there,” he told The Washington Post on Oct 30. “Nobody needs to go through that drill in the middle of the storm.”
Buzzfeed.com named Shashank Tripathi, a campaign manager for Republican congressional candidate Christopher Wight (N.Y.) as the user “Comfortablysmug.” Wight’s campaign said Tripathi had resigned from the campaign as a result of his tweets.
“He has taken full responsibility for what he tweeted,” Carlisle Williams, a spokeswoman for the campaign, told the Post.
In a statement on Twitter, Tripathi wrote, “I wish to offer the people of New York a sincere, humble and unconditional apology. During a natural disaster that threatened the entire city, I made a series of irresponsible and inaccurate tweets.”
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