Rebekah Shelton is not dead. Her Twitter account was hacked and a false tweet was sent and then corrected by the very much alive former Big Brother star, but not before a number of national papers reported otherwise.
The malicious tweet stated: “We’re sorry to inform everyone of the sad news that our wonderful and lovely Rebekah died unexpectedly on Wednesday night.
“We ask that you respect the family’s privacy at this time.”
Within minutes and clearly without any checks, papers including the Independent, the Daily Mail, the Mirror and NME posted online stories based on a single, uncorroborated tweet.
It is a concern, because any of these organisations would likely have had a contact for the former Big Brother star, known at the time as Rodrigo, but it seems not one of them checked their facts before publishing. Such is the hunger to get the clicks and retweets before the competition.
In a Twitter post, clarifying the fact that she is still very much alive, though clearly shaken, Rebekah says: “Please stop spreading the news that I am dead because obviously, I am not. I’ve been through hell today. Someone used my Twitter account to write that stupid statement about me. This person can’t accept the fact that I’m happy. That I overcame all my problems and that I’m finally living my life happy. I’m on holiday…in Arabia…and I’m NOT dead.”
I’m not dead!!!!!! Please stop spreading this news!!!!! My lawyer is already working on this and this person who wants to spoil my happiness is going to pay for it!!!!! pic.twitter.com/6PEzjjEGye
— Rebekah Shelton (@MissRShelton) January 12, 2018
It was too late to stop Big Brother presenter Rylan Clark-Neal from tweeting: “RIP Rebekah.”
RIP Rebekah ❤️
— Rylan Clark-Neal (@Rylan) January 12, 2018
Following the clarification, he corrected himself – without deleting the original tweet – saying: “Absolutely disgusted someone would do that. Glad you’re well @MissRShelton.”
Absolutely disgusted someone would do that. Glad you’re well @MissRShelton .
— Rylan Clark-Neal (@Rylan) January 12, 2018
Big Brother had also tweeted their sadness at the fake news but have now deleted the tweet.
How many more times will we be caught out before we learn…you cannot trust a tweet.
OPINION: Journalist Andy West says we need some form of regulation to control the unchecked information being pushed out to millions on social media.
When I trained to be a journalist at university, I was taught to check my sources and back them up. It was a good idea, I was told, to try to get the story from at least two individual people or organisations before trusting what I’d been told. Certainly, you would make a call or three to ascertain the credibility of the information you’ve been given.
In fact, at the BBC, where I worked for 12 years, I was often frustrated by the requirement to verify information that I knew to be accurate. Now, we can all see on a daily basis, the need for corroboration and we can thank social media for the lesson.
Time and time again, stories are being shared by millions of people that are simply untrue. Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter – the whole rotten, gossip-mongering lot of them – are riddled with untrue, inaccurate, nonsensical, misleading and entirely dishonest ‘articles’, ‘facts’ and ‘news updates’ which are then spread around the globe in minutes by people who are either too stupid, too naive, too lazy, too excited or too disinterested to stop and ask themselves…’does this even make sense?’
Olly Murs said there were gunmen in Central London. The Queen has died more times than I can remember, as has Rowan Atkinson. Apparently, the entire planet is going to go into darkness for two weeks. And on it goes…I’ve given up asking people to think before they indulge because they didn’t care about the story in the first place, it was just a Trojan horse for their own desire to gain likes, followers and retweets.
I’m astonished we haven’t, as yet, acknowledged the true implications of this mass delusion, misinformation, rumour-spreading and hysteria. Information is what drives all of us as people to behave as we do and if the information is untrue or thoroughly inaccurate – as we have seen with propaganda in the past – we are capable as a species of doing unspeakably evil, rash, cruel and stupid things.
Why are we not doing something to try and protect the facts and safeguard ourselves from panic and misinformation?
Today a former Big Brother star has had to deal with reports she’s dead. Tomorrow, the lie could have a much greater and more profoundly injurious effect on us all.