For those on the east coast of Japan yesterday, an earthquake with its epicenter off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture caused considerable panic. Even in Tokyo, the quake made buildings sway and lasted for a considerable amount of time. Given the recent experiences of devastating earthquakes in eastern Japan, as the ground shook news spread quickly online, with many people concerned that the situation might become more severe.
One Twitter user took advantage of the growing fear during the earthquake, posting a tweet claiming that their house had collapsed and that they needed immediate help. When it was later revealed that the tweet had been completely fabricated, it caused outrage in all corners of the internet. Netizens on 2ch.net, Twitter, Ceron.jp, and Yahoo! Japan have commented in their thousands, expressing genuine anger at the ill-advised prank.
From Yahoo! Japan:
‘I’m Trapped Inside. Help!’: Fake Tweet During Tohoku Earthquake, Over 10,000 Retweets, Even the Asahi Shimbun Falls For It
On December 7 2012, there was an mild earthquake in the Tohoku region that was 5 on the shindo scale. On the internet, the earthquake caused considerable panic, with words relating to earthquakes trending temporarily on Twitter.
Among these, a so-called ‘dema-tweet’ [fake tweet] that said, ‘My house is crumbling in the earthquake and I can’t get out, please call for help’ spread rapidly online, and the situation was such that even the society news desk of the Asahi Shimbun fell for the lie.
■ ‘Was A Lie Anyway www Everyone’s So Stupid’
At 18:42, around an hour and a half after the earthquake occurred, a Twitter user tweeted, ‘Please RT. My house is crumbling in the earthquake, and I can’t get out. I’m trapped in the rubble. Please call for help’ and ‘I’m so sorry everyone, I panicked and forgot to write my location. I’m in Kesennuma city‘ [an area badly affected by the huge 2011 Tohoku earthquake].
Worried comments were left for the user, such as ‘Are you OK?’ and ‘It’s so cold too. I know it’s terrible but please hang in there, help will definitely come soon’. Furthermore, there was even a reply from the Twitter account of the Asahi Shimbun society news desk: ‘This is the Asahi Shimbun society news desk. Where are you located? Could you please let us know? A DM will also be fine.’
At 19:00, the user tweeted, ‘Was a lie anyway www. Everyone’s so stupid. If it were true, you wouldn’t be on Twitter, would you’. It seems that it was a ‘crime of pleasure’ that took advantage of the panic over the earthquake. Those people who fell for the tweet hurled angry comments at the user saying, ‘This is just the lowest of the low’, ‘You’re messed up’, ‘You’re really the worst’.
However, even after that, the original tweet asking users to ‘please RT’ continued to spread, and by 19:45 it had been re-tweeted approximately 11,000 times. More well-intentioned tweets were also sent to the account, such as ‘I’ve finally managed to get through to the Kesennuma Fire Department. Could you write your address?’ and ‘Please transmit information about your location. I’ve re-tweeted you and am spreading the information.’
Comments from Yahoo! Japan:
I won’t forgive the bastard who spread the false rumours. A twat like that will never amount to anything.
Well, I guess that when this bastard is really in trouble, no one is going to help them!!
For those people from the devastated areas in eastern Japan, this is really unforgivable. I want the person to know true shame.
I’m praying that this loser isn’t Japanese.
Arrest the fucker. This is too much, even as a prank. Had there really been people in trouble, they wouldn’t have been able to help them because of you, idiot.
Isn’t this a crime? They used the good intentions of people to obstruct the emergency services. Isn’t it an obstruction of official duties, or forcible obstruction of operations or something?
@ＭＯ～（all…）さん ‘Well, I guess that when this bastard is really in trouble, no one is going to help them!!’ — I don’t care what happens to the bastard, but the problem is the people who might have been in trouble wouldn’t have been helped because of him …
Shall we go all out to expose them?
Couldn’t forcible obstruction of officials in the line of duty usually be applied here?
Make the boy who cried wolf open to public humiliation. What he did was sacrilegious to all those who suffered.
They should find out where it was tweeted from, and arrest the person.
Even crimes of pleasure should be severely punished!!!!!
I guess he or she is just a kid who doesn’t understand the suffering people have been through. Pitiful wretch.
Lowest of the low. I remember the countless episodes of heart-warming good-will that were introduced on YouTube last year, such a shame…what can I say…what a prick.
I just don’t get what on earth is enjoyable about doing something like that…
I remember the story of the boy who cried wolf. A person like that is better off getting eaten alive.
This is why the level of trust in information on the internet is so low. There is nothing more worrying than information that you can’t distinguish as being true or false.
I suppose a bastard like that won’t even die a decent death.
Something terrible will happen to you sooner or later! Just like what happened to the boy who cried wolf.