Enough Already! 7 Twitter Hoaxes and Half-Truths

Do you believe everything you read on Twitter?

You shouldn't.

Despite the micro-blogging site's many successes -- as a lifeline during emergencies, a direct line between the famous and their fans and an open line for anyone with something to share -- Twitter's instantaneous nature can make it all too easy to pass along fiction as fact.

Breaking news flies on Twitter, but though it may be first and fastest, it often can be false.

"If you see something that's big news, the impulse is to re-tweet it. And if it's outside your niche, you might not do the homework you'd typically do before re-tweeting," said Adam Ostrow, editor in chief of social media blog Mashable.

People build credibility in certain areas, he said, so their followers on Twitter learn to trust the information they send out and blast it out again to their own followers (or re-tweet it). Even when the information is false, it gets multiplied time and again.

By the time the source is identified, the hoaxer found out or the rumor quashed, it's too late. The misinformation has spread far and wide, often causing much ado about nothing.

Take this week, for instance. On Wednesday afternoon, word quickly spread on Twitter about chaos and confusion at New York City's Grand Central Terminal.

By 5 p.m., on a wave of tweets about how the terminal -- a hub for both commuter trains and local subways -- had been shut down or evacuated because of a suspicious package, "Grand Central" shot to placement among Google's top trending terms.

But a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said though a suspicious package had been identified near a subway track around 1:30 p.m., the situation was cleared within an hour and the terminal never evacuated.

On Wednesday night, Twitter users got busy again, sharing news that American Airlines was offering free flights to Haiti for doctors and nurses involved with relief efforts. The tweeted – and re-tweeted -- message included the phone number for the Haitian Consulate in New York.

An American Airlines spokesman told ABCNews.com Thursday that the messages contained "misinformation." But by the time the hoax was debunked, it had generated a storm of "American Airlines" tweets and tied up the consulate's phone line.

But Twitter rumors, unfortunately, have an even richer history. Below, take a look some of the Twitter-mill's most notorious hoaxes and half-truths.

Twitter Faulted for the Recession

In March 2009, a report swirled across the micro-blogging site that a Harvard economist had identified the true culprit behind the recession: Twitter.

A blog post published by Gaebler Ventures, a Chicago-based business incubator and holding company, claimed that research by a Professor Martin Schmeldon of Harvard Business School found that excessive tweeting was behind the flagging economy. The page-long report even included journal references and a line graph.

The company ultimately confessed to the prank in a matter of days, but not before the post had been re-tweeted more than 600 times and led to a flood of traffic to the Web site.

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