July 14, 2009

The perils of Facebook: Amanda Rodrigues edition

As we all know the mainstream media are all getting terribly excited about this “social media” thing that all the cool kids are doing. Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, established journalists are watching all of this wander past them and realising that they really should get involved. However, there are possible problems in the way some use it. Take, just as today’s example, the case of Amanda Rodrigues, the newly minted widow of Arturo Gatti, the boxer.

The essential background is that Gatti, twice a world champion had, in his mid 30s, contracted a marriage with an ex-stripper in her early 20s. The relationship was volatile and over the weekend he was found dead and she was arrested by the Brazilian police over the matter. At which point everyone went crazy looking for photos of this Amanda Rodrigues Gatti, with results that I’ve described elsewhere.

That is, that someone dived into Facebook, searched for “Amanda Rodrigues” clipped the image and started offering it around as a picture of Ms. Gatti. There’s only one slight problem with this, which is that there are at least 215 entries on Facebook for that name. We don’t even know whether Ms. Gatti has a Facebook page at all but even if she did taking simply the first of 215 as “the one” would be pretty low odds of getting the right one.

Now it does have to be said that none of the print papers made this mistake but some of their online offshoots did. As did a larger number of online only publications. Various lessons could be pointed to here: always check your sources, don’t believe what you read on the web, good points all. But perhaps the most important is that new technologies don’t change the mistakes we human beings are prone to, just allows us to make them faster.

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