On Wednesday of last week, a ‘harmless’ tweet published by ASOS about a photo shoot taking place in the West End snowballed out of control around the twitterverse, leaking into national media at phenomenal speed. The tweet published by Candice Bailey of ASOS read:
"Street style shooting in Oxford Circus for ASOS and Diet Coke, Let me know if you’re around!!"
Three minutes after the tweet was posted, Bob Wolf interpreted it as ‘Shooting in progress in Oxford Circus? What?’ During the 30 minutes that followed, a number of tweets continued to fuel the fire with even the national media picking up on the panic.
It appears that ASOS’s tweet about their photo shoot added fuel to what was already a burning fire. Rumours about a shooting in central London had already started to grow that day when news of secret Scotland Yard training on how to tackle a gunman somehow leaked. Users of twitter quickly tweeted about the hoax saying that police had issued official warnings of a gunman on the loose. A Scotland Yard spokesperson had to later confirm with the public that it was a training session only.
There is no doubt that this incident is an example of how Twitter has become a real-time news network. Within seconds of both the tweets going live, shoppers and workers were told to stay indoors and consumers and the media were all swept up in the rumours. An incident like this yet again reminds us of the power of Twitter but also how the people are willing to spread information without considering or understanding the impact.
The reaction to the ASOS tweet does however raise an important consideration – are we as humans conditioned to expect the worse? Do we see the word ‘shoot’ and immediately interpret it as an act of violence?
It appears that we now live in a society where almost anything can be taken out of context, and on a medium like Twitter it can metamorphose into a monster within seconds.