The Ebola outbreak continues to be a source of global concern, and unfortunately, an “unauthorized tweet” from the Yahoo News Twitter account added to those fears on Sunday when someone posted the following:
“BREAKING: EBOLA OUTBREAK IN ATLANTA! Estimated 145 people infected so far since Doctors carrying the disease were flown in from Africa.”
Users were not immediately fooled by the release, with one telling the site to “change your password,” believing it to be a hack. Yahoo later followed up on the tweet with “Earlier, an unauthorized tweet with misinformation on Ebola was sent from this account; please disregard that tweet.”
More from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“The tweet played on fears related to two Americans infected with Ebola who are in treatment at Emory University Hospital. Public health officials have insisted the patients pose no risk to the public and have gone to some lengths to explain how the disease is transmitted.
“That could be why Emory Healthcare spokesman Vincent Dollard greeted the news of the errant tweet with a sigh.
“‘Wow,’ he said.
“Dollard confirmed that the disease remained firmly contained and that the public should have no reason to be concerned about the treatment of the two patients.”
So no, it’s official: no Ebola outbreak in Atlanta. But what we do have is the very worst of humanity using a tragedy that has taken around 1,000 lives and turned it into a vicious online prank.
As one Redditor put it, “Whoever did this should be arrested. Not kidding…. That is the equivalent of screaming ‘fire’ in a crowded room. Hijacking a news outlet and using it to spread information about a contagion is inciting a public panic.”
Said another: “You can’t put out news of disease outbreaks. That clearly is trying to incite public panic. If you put out that a disease is breaking out in a densely populated area then you guarantee that people will show up to the ER with hypochondria because that ‘cough’ they had is making them nervous…. Seriously, talk to any doctor who has worked the emergency room and they will tell you that when the news runs stories about diseases or food poisoning scares that the number of people who show up jumps significantly. That endangers the people with REAL emergencies.”
Not mentioned on the Reddit thread for this story was the fact that a densely populated area like Atlanta could lead to panicked violence in a hurry.
Imagine if someone was out in public, and they read that on their phone. With all the misinformation going around about the Ebola outbreak and how “easy” it is to spread, there’s no telling what could happen.
Do you think that, if caught, the perpetrator of the Ebola outbreak Twitter hack should be prosecuted as a felon?
[Image via ShutterStock]