Zombie swine flu hoax story: Does Twitter have panic-creating potential?

Zombiesshaunofdead_lThis hilarious but totally bogus story — about a mutant zombie strain of the swine flu and designed to look like a legit BBC News story — is making quite the splash on Twitter. The link to the story has been retweeted (in other words, shared on user’s Twitter feeds), at last check, 720 times, according to Tweetmeme, a website designed to aggregate which links are getting the most play on Twitter at any given moment. Even more interesting is that the story — which is undoubtedly a complete fake as it makes claims like a Netherlands boy dying and then rising from the dead and lunging at his mother, among other crazy things — is listed on Tweetmeme’s homepage with this very misleading and official-looking moniker: BBC NEWS | Europe | EU quarantines London in swine flu panic. And it’s right alongside actually legit BBC News stories, like this: BBC News | Health | What scientists know about swine flu, which is also being retweeted but not nearly as much. Shouldn’t someone at Tweetmeme catch the potential panic such a legit-but-bogus link could incite?

If you look at what the Twitter community is saying when posting the fake link, it’s a mixed bag. Everything from tongue-in-cheek takes — "OMG! Swine flu virus has mutation…and it’s now creating zombies!" says user redrisker — to the dismissive: "Great example about trust and checking sources," Tweeted user MeManders.

Another interesting dimension to this story is the URL that’s used for the hoax. Just look at it: http://bouncewith.me.uk/europe/8027043.htm. Clearly, you’re not being directed to the BBC News website. But it’s important to remember that, on Twitter at least, a good portion of the URLs posted are turned into "short links," which save space. So users rarely look at what they’re clicking on anymore — until they get to the destination. Checking the URL, and whether it redirected to a legit website, may or may not happen.

In this case, thankfully, most users seem to get the fact that the story is a joke, but we do seem to have the ideal forum for a potential War of the Worlds-like event. And how could this affect entertainment news? (For instance, could the Jaleel White suicide rumor from a few years back have gone nuts on Twitter? Hehe.) Does this silly little, yet entertaining, communication application have the potential to spread panic? I surely think so, especially since it’s so unpoliced. But what say you, PopWatchers?


Comments (43 total) Add your comment
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  • zane

    its true, the zombies will come, and i will kill them!

  • -=JesuS=- -Christ-

    Zombies are gana happen the swine flu is gana kill people and people are gana turn in to zombies and people are going to die ok swine is the first stage Gawd Dayum if u need help in pepairing send me a message brycer000@yahoo.com

  • Luis PJ

    sad to see that Twitter being like this, I thought it be better then that, but well see what happen

  • Ceballos

    A fake story like this can only gain credence if people are dumb enough to believe it without properly checking sources…
    …so to answer your question, YES, I’m worried about Twitter can cause some sort of real panic down the line. I just believe that says less about the technology and more about how dumb and lazy some people can be.

  • Nix

    Never disbelieve the zombiepocalypse.

  • PierreSmack

    If you’re concerned you may already be a Zombie, and want to run some diagnostics on yourself, check out AmIaZombie.com. I guarantee the results are 100% legitimate.

  • alina

    haha they totally caught me.
    i thought the URL was weird
    but wen i got to the page i
    reallllly thought it was legit.
    i called my bf and my mom in a panic.
    i was gonna buy a shotgun this weekend. lolol. this is a great hoax.
    :D

  • Sammi-Jo

    A friend sent a direct message of this to me. I looked this up and destroyed his fantasy.
    …but I have to think about whether this could be a conspiracy theory to keep average citizens in the dark about certain issues the higher-ups believe we “aren’t ready for”.

  • oh_myxbeaver

    Well, the “news story” had my hopes up. If fact, about a month ago a friend of mine asked my biology teacher if this could happen and the teacher said no. We both got our hopes up, then had them crushed again…
    Guess we’ll have to wait for a real zombie virus. Heh. ;3

  • Sami Bashir

    Haha, I got totally duped by this, and the funnier part is I told my friends and they believed me. I feel like such a dork. THat is hella convincing though, I saw it on reddit though, not twitter

  • d.

    What a jackass move. You got alot of people I know with this prank. What if something bad happened and People really took it too fare and some killed someone cuase they thought they had swine flue …Think first.

  • blackest cracker

    This is real. I don’t care what anybody says, I’ve been waiting for this for years and I refuse to accept that it’s fake. I’m going into survival mode and you all should too! The dead will walk!!! The dead will walk!!! Get your shotguns ready cause we’re gonna kill the elderly- I mean zombies, we’re gonna kill the zombies.

  • dayana

    hot sexy photos…

    http://watchcelebrity.com/

  • AM

    I think it’s really ridiculous that people would actually post things like that. It may seem like a joke but it could really put people in a panic. I’m all for practical joke but not when it comes to a serious and deadly issue such as swine flu. I think people need to know where to draw the line!

  • nick

    I think if this sort of thing happens enough out of twitter, then it will end up just being expected

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