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The tweets of his death have been greatly exaggerated

Rumours of the death of Singapore's first Prime Minister days prior to Singapore's National Day were easily quashed when Mr Lee Kuan Yew appeared on "live" national TV attending the National Day Parade.

The Twitter rumour mill even got one journalist's mother calling her up to confirm the news. 

Wrote Eileen Yu of ZDNet
Lee, according to the Twitter rumor mill, had died earlier this week.
His supposedly death was a trending topic on Monday but went so viral on Wednesday even my mum called her reporter-daughter to check if Lee was indeed dead.
The rumors varied. One claimed he was brain-dead, while another alleged he was already dead and the country's national papers were instructed to hold back the news until after Singapore's birthday celebrations.
The Twitter community is out with a vengeance and is now trying to identify who started this rumour.

Though this wouldn't be classified as mass hysteria, this incident easily how a online rumour on a particular social network can literally turned into a literal word of mouth spread.

The medium too cannot be blamed for such a spread. Even in 1938, the American radio drama "War of the Worlds" created national wide panic with its "news bulletin" style format.

From that Wikipedia page, even when a radio host tried to calm his audience by saying " "The world is not coming to an end. Trust me. When have I ever lied to you?", some of the audience accused him of covering up the incident.

Tessa Wong, a journalist at The Straits Times, tweeted that a fellow journalist will be meeting Mr Lee but that didn't seem to calm the masses either.

Everybody was waiting for an official announcement from the Prime Minister's Office, but the best announcement came from the "live" presence of Mr Lee at the National Day Parade.

However, as the generation look at Tweets and social networks for news, it is more than important now that the related government agency should look at how to counter such rumours in future. Not by censoring or by punishment, but by being open and transparent source of information on social networks.

As such, the government could make use of the Twitter community to do what they do best, retweet the right information. 


Anonymous said…
Surely the government has better things to do with its time than address every random rumour that comes up, especially one as ridiculous as this. Shouldn't it be up to the people spreading the rumours to provide evidence, not the people being talked about?
Aaron Koh said…
As much as this Twitter rumour is ridiculous, even the journalist's mother called to check on the real issue at hand.

The biggest problem is that those spreading rumours, or those believe in the rumours do not evidence to believe if the rumours are true.

When social networks become mainstream to a generation, it becomes the medium that the government must be prepared for.

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