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

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.