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Published January 13th 2015

#FoxNewsFacts: When Hashtags Go Rogue

You know the story. In 12 seconds, Steve Emmerson spread enough misinformation to draw the attention of pretty much every news and social network of the world.

His statements spawned a hashtag of humiliation with over a quarter of a millions mentions and forced Fox News’ reputation as provider of quality journalism to sink even lower that it already had.

Speaking in relation to last week’s deadly terrorist attack in Paris, Emmerson claimed that Birmingham – Britain’s second largest city – was ‘totally Muslim’, and that non-Muslims simply ‘don’t go in’.

The alleged terrorism and Muslim extremism expert has since apologised, claiming his statements were the result of ‘sloppy research’. Despite his claims of “vigilante Muslim groups” within the city, Muslims account for less than 25% of Birmingham’s population. Christians, by comparison, make up 50%.

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Emmerson’s claims weren’t just stupid, they were deliberately ignorant.

He was distorting reality in an attempt to appeal to an American Islamophobic niche. By doing so, he awoke the rage of a more tolerant Tweeting population.

#FoxNewsFacts has drawn over 250,000 mentions in the past three days – and hundreds of Tweets are being written every minute. With 10,000 jokes being made about Fox News every hour, they’re a laughing stock.

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If you catch a crisis like this early, you can react to the humiliation and even turn the tides in your favour. Fox News failed to do this, and satirists made the situation even worse.

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To a trained eye, the ‘Fox News Press Team’ account is clearly unofficial.

Set up during the heat of the hashtag, it claimed its mission was to single-handedly undo the damage the #FoxNewsFacts had done.

Threatening ‘legal recourse’ against high-profile Tweeters (including one former MP), they appeared to have totally misunderstanding of social media and the law.

Despite not holding a blue tick of verification, many Twitter users assumed these tweets were coming out of the Fox New HQ.

The account was far more damaging to Fox News’ reputation than the hashtags. It wasn’t the truth that harmed Fox News the most, it was the lies. Karma sucks, eh?

What lessons can we learn from #FoxNewsFacts?

Don’t tell racist lies. This is pretty simple, and doesn’t need any explanation. Don’t do this.

React to conversations early. #FoxNewsFacts spread quicker than Fox News could handle because they simply weren’t paying attention. Getting notified when social chatter spikes is vital for managing your reputation. Watch out for our latest Social Listening in Practice guide, out soon, on this very subject.

Stop the imposters. Parody accounts are inevitability for any major tweeter. Accounts which appear to legitimate pose a major threat to an organisation’s reputation.


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