LIMERICK’s communications executive has moved to warn people of the danger of tweeting inaccurate information after mild panic spread on the online netwoking site Twitter following a hoax bomb alert at Limerick prison at the weekend.
A major search operation took place outside Limerick Prison on Sunday evening after gardai received a call that there was a bomb outside the facility.
While nothing was located and the call was eventually declared a hoax, tweets were sent online claiming that prisoners had escaped and were on the loose on the city’s streets.
“That was just ridiculous – there were people retweeting information that wasn’t verified,” said Laura Ryan of Limerick’s communications office.
“It’s dangerous - panic was spreading slightly by people retweeting information that wasn’t credible or wasn’t verified. It’s like being a journalist you need to check your facts and check your sources,” she said.
In relation to the positive aspects of the social networking site, Laura agrees that it is the best medium for breaking news.
From a local point of view, last Wednesday evening’s verdict in the Shane Geoghegan murder trial is a prime example of how Twitter has become the force it is, with 100 million users worldwide.
Within 20 seconds of the guilty verdict being announced by the jury, Laura was aware of it in her office in Limerick thanks to a tweet from a member of the press inside the Dublin courtroom. Thousands more around the country were also privy to the information. It was a number of minutes before the story hit the airwaves and hours again before it rolled off the presses.
Twitter is also becoming a popular means of communication in much the same way as texting. Rugby star Jerry Flannery uses it, he says, to convey his “deepest innermost thoughts”.
“I find in everyday life that people never really listen to me and I feel that I have a lot of important things to say so Twitter gives me a platform whereby I am able to share my deepest, innermost thoughts with people - that’s why I like it,” says the tweet happy hooker, tongue firmly in cheek.
Former Miss Limerick, Becky Costello, is also a fan of what Vincent Browne dubbed ‘the tweet machine’.
“I wouldn’t check so much in the morning but definitely at night-time when I come home from college – it’s how I unwind. I check the tweets, chill out and catch up on the news of the day.
“I follow a lot of shops, style blogs, and things I’m interested in. I get the news on it, I follow the Limerick Leader.”
However, the Kilmallock girl sounded a note of caution about the overall direction social media is taking.
“One thing I will say about social networking is I don’t know actually if it’s a good thing or a bad thing at times. There is no going back but I don’t know if it’s a positive direction we are going in,” she says.