New York analyst faces fallout for false Sandy reports on Twitter
New York, NY, United States (4E) – A 29-year-old Twitter user in New York City who posted several alarming reports about Hurricane Sandy, from shut down plans of all power in Manhattan to a flooded New York Stock Exchange, has been identified Tuesday.
Buzzfeed contributor Jack Stuef, who compared altered photos posted on the account to unedited copies of them on the Internet, revealed the account owner as Shashank Tripathi, a Wall Street analyst and campaign manager for a Congress candidate.
Tripathi’s mostly false messages about Sandy have been reported as facts by some news outlets.
After a blogger exposed his identity, Tripathi posted an apology on Twitter Tuesday night and resigned from the campaign of Republican Christopher Wight, who is aiming for New York’s 12th Congressional seat.
Tripathi wrote “I wish to offer the people of New York a sincere, humble and unconditional apology.”
He continued “while some would use the anonymity and instant feedback of social media as an excuse, I take full responsibility for my actions. I deeply regret any distress or harm they may have caused.”
The case highlighted the influence of social media in spreading misinformation rapidly and provoked questions of prosecution for users who intentionally post false information during a natural disaster or emergency.
It started Monday when Hurricane Sandy was approaching landfall and the Twitter account of @ComfortablySmug began actively posting quick tweets to his 6,500 followers.
The tweets include those that were alarming and involving false stories of devastation.
One tweet stated, “BREAKING: Con Edison has begun shutting down all power in Manhattan,” while another read “BREAKING: Governor Cuomo is trapped in Manhattan. Has been taken to a secure shelter.”
The account user also noted that all major lines of the New York City subways had been flooded and would be shut down for at least a week.
He also added to the chaotic reports that the New York Stock Exchange was under water, which was not true. Several media network, including CNN and the Weather Channel, picked up the NYSE flooding narration after being reported on the National Weather Service’s website.
Wight’s campaign website stated that the analyst had been replaced.
There was no response fromTripathi to a Twitter message asking for his comment.
An elected official has revealed intention to push for criminal charges.
It was reported that New York City Councilman Peter Vallone announced he has requested the Manhattan district attorney’s office to check if Tripathi’s tweets were the digital equivalent of shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.”
Valone, a Democrat, added the Manhattan DA is taking the case very seriously and “hope the fact that I’m asking for criminal charges to be seriously considered will make him much less comfortable and much less smug.”