Over the last day or so Twitter has been indundated with tweets that the global shipping company UPS is offering free shipments to Haiti for packages under 50lbs.
Kindly users are offering useful suggestions such as “UPS is shipping anything 2 #Haiti under 50lbs for FREE: send a care box with things like food blankets candles tents batteries medicine etc.”
Unfortunately, the rumor is false. The company has in fact suspended shipments to Haiti. UPS’s latest blog post cites the “destruction of roads and communications networks” as the reason to put their Haiti service on hold.
Another popular retweet was American Airlines offer of free travel to Haiti for licensed medical professionals. Again, airline spokesmen have denied the rumor as reported on CNN.
For social media providers, the lesson here is to verify the authenticity of offers or news before retweeting info.
In the longer term, spread of rumors can only damage the value of social media. It behooves us all to double-check information unless we know it comes from a verifiable source.
More immediately, these rumors only compound the suffering of Haitians. Many of the country’s residents are reaching out to the outside world through social networks. Twitter and Facebook were for some the only meaningful contact they had with friends and relatives. (See Social media key in Haiti earthquake coverage.) Given the Haitian’s reliance on social media, how cruel to pile such hoaxes on top of their misery.
Please take a moment to post a Tweet to counter the rumors. Feel free to copy and paste the following: “Free Haiti American Airlines and UPS offers are hoaxes, according to CNN. http://ow.ly/WtK6”