As world awaits news on flight MH370, we all need to quit the bad habit of social media rumor-mongering


MH370 Malaysian airline

There’s still no official word or solid evidence of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 that was en route from Kuala Lumphur to Bejing on Saturday. The world awaits news on the 239 missing people onboard.

But why is Tech in Asia writing about this? Here is why.

With the world tuned into news of the missing aircraft, many people and news agencies want to be the first to report new information. I’ve been following the news throughout the weekend, and I’m shocked at the irresponsibility of the mainstream media. Since the relevant authorities in Malaysia haven’t confirmed any details on either the plane or its passengers, media headlines should be using words like “missing” or “disappeared.” However, some Thai news outlets are reporting it as a crash, despite no evidence. Some even went as far as to say that parts of the plane have been “discovered” already.

(See: Facebook grows to 368 million active users in Asia)

The rush of social media

Let’s not name names, but I think this matter needs to be called out. Why? Because it’s unfair on those who have loved ones on MH370. They still have hope, and they deserve accurate information. News outlets want to break news before others, but flashy and misleading headlines that bait for shares on Facebook and Twitter are unethical.

And there’s no excuse that a social media post doesn’t count as part of one’s publication. A reputable news organization treats its tweets and social posts with the same journalistic rigor as stories on its newspaper or website.

Nuttaputch Wongreanthong, a well-known Thai blogger, slammed the nation’s media yesterday for putting retweets above accuracy in the case of the missing flight.

This is not the only dubious case of media mangling over the weekend. In one tragic incident in Thailand, a child killed his parents. Various local media outlets say the attack was because of a specific game; others say it was over a mobile; while other outlets say it was due to internet addiction or some such issue. The facts don’t seem to matter too much; there was a murder, and an immediate explanation has been pinned on it whether it’s accurate or not. Yes, Thai people love drama, but this kind of reporting is a global problem.

Now that people rely on social media as a sort of aggregator of news – or, for some, the socially-shared headlines are their main source of news without clicking through for details – both the media and online influencers need to be responsible in what they say and publish via any platform. In Thailand, this problem appeared recently during the political unrest. Everyone needs to think before they share. Since you are what you tweet, let’s make it our responsibility to not spread rumors and be accountable for what we say.

(Image credit: AmarAronz Twitter account)

(Editing by Steven Millward)

(And yes, we're serious about ethics and transparency. More information here.)

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