Uh-oh, we have a crisis on our hands at Penn. Our beloved Dean Furda has lied and did not attend Penn. Quick, enact our PR cover up plan. Oh, we don’t have one. Enact instantly firing him over this outrageous accusation that is now true by the fact it has gone viral, so even if it isn’t true, there is no coming back from it. Write up the papers, call HR, let’s get a search committee in here in an hour.
Oh, it’s just the annual April Fools Edition of the Daily Pennsylvanian – released on March 25th, 2015. Whew! Cancel the search committee. But what happens when someone digs up this tweet months from now? It’s so easy to see this is a joke in context of the front page of their website, the physical newspaper or even in a series of tweets.
But that is not how I stumbled upon this news factoid and I am guessing someone else will stumble upon this with no context later. Recently, the world took to mourning the death of Chinua Achebe, a celebrated Nigerian author of Things Fall Apart. Only the problem is he passed away almost 2 years ago! In a great Atlantic article by Shirley Li, it is pointed out that this mistake eventually reached White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice who tweeted her condolences. Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton wrote that social media is “unstuck in time” essentially meaning that just because something is TRENDING, does not make it RECENT.
So now, I wonder what the social responsibility is for certain posts. What if someone finds this joke tweet about Dean Furda in 3 years? With no context and the ability to spread like wildfire, could this spread with no merit and severe ramifications? While I appreciate the Daily Pennsylvanian’s April Fools edition as much as anyone, I wonder if we all have a little more responsibility to remember that our posts may be fleeting, but they do not disappear.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Daily Pennsylvanian edited their front page of the website after this post to reflect that it was a joke issue (as they typically do each year). They also took care to tab their tweets with “JOKE ISSUE”, but some (like Dean Furda’s) remain without edit at the time of this publishing.