In times of public crisis, such as a shooting or natural disaster, social media can be an incredibly useful tool to communicate information to the public. Official channels like the Red Cross, police departments, and government agencies use social media to disseminate information to the media and the general population. But what happens when the public and bystanders of the crisis, who have just as much access to social media channels, start using the same channels to provide contradictory and sometimes false information?
During the recent LAX shooting, the public and the media were largely left to combat misinformation on their own (such as a parody account that claimed that a prominent government official had been a victim of the shooting), doing their own sleuthing to clear up misunderstandings. Still, those bits of misinformation can perpetuate when left unchecked by official channels, and seriously undermine the credible information that official channels are putting forth.
How can official organizations help combat the misinformation that spreads? Should part of their crisis communication plans include contingencies for misinformation? Should monitoring for misinformation be an important part of any crisis communication plan?