Tweetmeme lets hoax ‘Zombie Swine Flu’ BBC story go-unchecked

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Tweetmeme is adding to the panic about Swine Flu by letting a hoax link, which is flagged on the site as a genuine BBC News story, go unchecked.

The link on the Tweetmeme Twitter aggregator appears with the headline “BBC NEWS | Europe | EU quarantines London in swine flu panic”. The link goes to a site with the address but it looks exactly like a normal BBC New story.

Clearly plenty of people are re-tweeting the story because they know it’s a joke. And don’t get me wrong, I get it too. However, it appears on Tweetmeme flagged as a genuine BBC News story. Despite flagging the, I daresay plenty of people simply think this a a URL shortener since people so rarely look at URLs now anyway. Tweetmeme encourages re-tweets with a big “re-tweeet this button” hence why it has now been re-tweeted 542 times, at last count. There is of course no such story on the real BBC News site.

Headlined “EU quarantines London in flu panic” the story reads:

There has been a small outbreak of “zombism” in London due to mutation of the H1N1 virus into new strain: H1Z1. Similar to a scare originally found in Cambodia back in 2005, victims of a new strain of the swine flu virus H1N1 have been reported in London. After death, this virus is able to restart the heart of it’s victim for up to two hours after the initial demise of the person where the individual behaves in extremely violent ways from what is believe to be a combination of brain damage and a chemical released into blood during “resurrection.”

It goes on to detail such clearly improbable events as “The Netherlands confirms its first case of zombie swine flu, in a three-year-old boy recently returned from Mexico. After passing away early this morning, he rose from the dead and lunged at his mother.”

It also says that the European Commission has “been calling it “novel flu”, replacing the word “swine” to avoid prompting a fall in demand for pork and bacon.”

However, large parts of the story read more convincingly, which is perhaps why the story is being re-tweeted so much.

Tweetmeme’s Nick Halstead seemed relaxed about the issue: “This is one problem with crowdsourced news! – but in next 2-3 weeks we will have added moderation tools that allows people to mark things as inappropriate etc.”

Meanwhile Tweetmeme’s influence is spreading. It’s re-tweet button is now on the official web site for the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  • RK

    why is this related to same with any other tracker like

  • Nick Halstead

    Sorry Mike, but we did not FLAG it as an offical BBC story, look at your own screen grab the domain that we clearly display in captials is ‘BOUNCEWITH.ME.UK’. So before anyone clicks on these links they do know it is not a BBC site.

    The outbreak channel is picking up official news, images, videos and yes there have been a range of funny images + spoof websites. Should we delete them? I am not sure – they have already spread around twitter because people think they are real or not.

    But on this occasion I think ‘zombie flu’ is pretty clearly a joke?

  • Mike Butcher

    Nick, despite flagging, I daresay plenty of people simply think this a a URL shortener since people so rarely look at URLs now anyway. The headline still looks like a BBC News piece. Clearly you can’t delete everything but don’t you have a responsibility to stop crap like this purporting to come from a really credibly news outlet like the BBC?

  • Nigel

    I’m ready to put my L4D sessions into practice…

    • Caleb P

      haha..i hear you man…i think the swine flu will eventually lead to a zombie outbreak…this story may have been a hoax…but im still prepared…

      • Miles Tails Prower the foxx

        lol yeh totally gunu happen now a news storys been created about it, when they create a news story about something it becomes inevitable… so im getting my baseball bat and sawn off shotgun.. Trespassers on my propety will be shot in the head, survivors will be batted.

      • Stanly Nortan

        Ya, i think it would be awesome. If the bites were infective i would cover myself in unbitable material like leather or something, to make sure i couldnt get bit. And use my samori sword for the first time ever, all about survival, it would make life more… lets say interesting.

  • Kimbo

    Who cares?

  • Nick Halstead

    I don’t think it is up to us to decide, we will give the community the tools and they can vote to remove or not. For the moment we listen very closely via our multiple twitter accounts (@talkTweetMeme) to feedback on content, and react accordingly.

  • Nick Halstead

    Nigel, we here in the TweetMeme office play 30 minutes of Left 4 Dead – in the event of this news story becoming true, we have a range of gas canisters arranged at the perimeter of the office in readiness. :P

  • Robin Hood

    The only reason for this sensationalistic post is to push your friends at favorit & tweetmeme. Sigh.

  • Edd

    I found the link through Tweetmeme, read the story and found it funny

    Personally I wouldn’t want the link deleted from Tweetmeme as inappropriate as I don’t agree that it is… I’d rather choose to click on the link than get yet another joke forwarded to me via email by someone bored at work

  • Kolin

    I dont see anythign wrong with this. tweetmeme “finds the hottest stories from twitter.” It dosent claim to be a news aggregator nor does it claim that any of it is real. It’s doing exactly what it says on the tin.

  • Stuart Dallas

    Disappointed with you Mike. Why single out Tweetmeme? There are plenty of sites that do the same thing Tweetmeme does and they are also promoting this URL. For example it’s currently the second highest entry on Any website that depends on user-generated content is at the mercy of the “stupid people”.

    Looking at the tweets for this story on Tweetmeme a fair few are pointing out that it’s not real. Personally I don’t think Tweetmeme should remove anything other than sites that promote malware or attempt to phish stuff.

    Having said that I think Tweetmeme should add a note to this story to make it clear that it’s a “prank” and not an official BBC story. I would rather see it there like that than have it removed.


    The first thing I did was look at the URL, and then you know its completely unreliable and absurd…Even more so after you read the store. It’s fun fooling fools.

  • 1000heads: The Word of Mouth People » Final thought for the week… Zombie Swine Flu!?

    […] news story page there has been much retweeting at Tweetmeme – 887 on the last check. The site, according to Tech Crunch, appears to have flagged it as a genuine piece and from then on the ‘retweet this’ button has […]

  • Zombie swine flu panic « b&k m online

    […] At first I thought this was an April Fools joke, but then realized it’s the first of May, not April. As I thought about this more, though, I was trying to figure out how the viruses would be able to generate the incredible amount of energy that would be required to get the heart beating again. I googled some and was presented with several stories indicating that the story was a hoax. […]

  • okin

    see this link – a portrait serie about Swine Flu

  • Fox

    Come on you guys stop bein the all knowinng tightwads, and don’t give me a pile of crap sayin you always look at the url. this is funny and i believe that it was a great story even if it was fake, so you all knowing tightwads should loosen your belts and start laughin.


    […] Having opened this on my Blackberry, I could not see the URL. For those who also get this link sent to you, the address is and the story is NOT TRUE. It has however, been spreading like undead hellfire on Twitter. […]

  • Kyle

    !!! I have to say that I am more than a little sad that this is a hoax. Imagine how infinitely BA this could have been! Zombie apocalypse! bahahahaha!!!! I would be ready, after all, I am well armed and dangerous. 2nd Amendment Rights! Woo!
    Well I think I’m finished, especially now that I seem like a white-trash imbecile. heheh

    • RETARD

      I’m pretty upset too. As I’ve beaten Left 4 Dead and Fallout 3, kind of want to put my skills to the test.

      • Randgris

        Sorry, but playing a few video games does not endow you with zombie killing skills in real life.

  • jim jacks

    yes hoaxes are never cool ok maybe funny for a bit.

    but get a load of this scary Report.

  • Anonymous Observer

    I will stay out of the debate about whether Tweetmeme did anything wrong or not, however it should be noted that, while people may expect news or not-news from them, the viral nature of tweets very quickly spreads several degrees away from the original site. So it doesn’t take very many people who don’t get that it’s a joke for the mis-info to spread. I’ve already seen “regular” (ie non-tweeted) Facebook updates which clearly indicate that their posters had seen this and thought it was a legitimate story.

  • kalem kamera

    thanks admin

  • kalem kamera

    thank you admin

  • Sam

    what a surprise – tc running a childish negative story about something that isn’t a big deal

  • miles barnden

    I typed ‘swine flu london’ into google cos there’d just been 2 new cases, and this came up BBC NEWS /London. Seriously like LOL tho!! i believed it for a second, admitted a long second, but this is BULLSHIT!!

  • John

    LOL you flag it as an “official” BBC News if it makes any difference to the credibility of the said article, on the basis it comes from them. The BBC is impatrial, independant and does not lie..

    ..sorry, I just coughed outloud.

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