Using social media during a crisis
Evaluate the sources and do not spread rumours. The media scrutinise rumours when a serious event occurs. So should you. How do you know that what you want to share is true? Whose interests are served by your post? Will you stand behind what you wrote after the fact?
Feel free to discuss things. An open discussion benefits everyone, even during the course of a serious event. Be sure to adapt what you write to suit the event before posting it on social media. Does anyone else benefit from what you write? Perhaps you should wait before publishing your post.
There is a risk that important information will get lost among all the non-emergent posts. Use the hashtags and other channels specifically designated for condolences, instead of the hashtags those in charge use to disseminate important information or gather tips from the public.
Be patient. If you want to contact the agency handling an emergency, perhaps the matter can wait. Read up on source evaluation.
People’s names and pictures
Think before sharing pictures or the personal information of those affected. How would you want pictures of those close to you to be handled if they were the ones affected? If you publicly name a person in connection with an event, are you sure that the person you ping in a public thread won’t mind? Perhaps you should share the information in a private message instead.
If you share pictures of an event, people and objects may be recognised. The result may be that someone recognises an affected family member before police have had a chance to notify the rest of the family.
When events unfold quickly, it may be difficult to get answers to your questions. Important information may be delayed, because in an emergency situation, what happened has yet to be confirmed. The best thing for you to do in a situation such as this is to stay calm and continue following the information provided by the authorities in charge. Keep in mind that things can change. Something that was true at one point in time can quickly be rendered untrue in certain situations.