It was just six days ago. Saturday night. In Greenville, South Carolina. The place many of you live or work in. Chaos erupted.
Or maybe it didn’t.
One of the things that Complete PR fights is misinformation. We don’t like lies. We don’t like falsehoods. We don’t like people to be confused. Last Saturday night became a maelstrom of misinformation about protests in relation the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Social media was ablaze with tales of chaos. Haywood Mall was being looted. The Kohl’s on Woodruff Road was on fire. No, it was the Walmart. No wait, it was Target. All through the night, stories spread with almost no verification. Not by the traditional media. Not by law enforcement. But by people who felt the need to share information.
Then, the next morning. Haywood Mall was still there. So was Kohl’s. So was Walmart, Target, and all of the rest alleged hot spots. But you say, the police did show up to these places? And they did because that is their job. When someone calls the police to say things are being looted, they are going to show up.
Sadly, this didn’t stop on Saturday night. Wild stories filled feeds all weekend. The Law Enforcement Center in downtown Greenville was under attack. Riots were happening in Spartanburg. Businesses here, there and everywhere were having some kind of issues with rioters, protestors and everyone in between. Yet, very little of it happened.
The Charleston Post and Courier actually posted a story looking into this today. Now, while we started working on this blog earlier in the week, their story does offer some unique insights.
“A reminder that some of the most disruptive people during times of social upheaval may be ones sitting at computers overseas.
Examples in South Carolina include the Walter Scott police shooting in North Charleston and the white supremacist shooting at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston. Both happened in 2015. And within days, Russian agents posed as both right- and left-wing Americans on Twitter and Facebook, posting incendiary messages of their own and also amplifying the most divisive posts of real social media users.
A more insidious case happened in 2016, on the one-year anniversary of the Mother Emanuel killings that left nine black worshippers dead. Russian agents used American activists to stage a fake rally in Charleston at the same time as a legitimate “walk for unity” event, a Post and Courier investigation revealed earlier this year. A handful of people took the bait and showed up to protest.”
By spreading misinformation, we spread fear. It also makes people question when bad things actually happen. While Greenville and the Upstate remained 99 percent peaceful, just to the north in Asheville, violence did occur. At least one television photographer was attacked by members of a mob, and was then protected by peaceful protestors. That story got lost in the shuffle.
Stop blurring messages. Don’t believe the first thing you hear. Verify it.