Lessons from the Strathmore University drill about obtaining information from social media

Social media gaffe
Courtesy: ProSar
Courtesy: ProSar

Twitter is really good at disseminating  breaking news items and this has its merits and its disadvantages. The merits include the rapid transfer of information from the source to the public if you are a credible source. The demerits are sometimes the information being disseminated could be false and that has repercussions like your credibility taking a hit, causing unnecessary panic or worry and being shamed in the process.

Today there were reports going on the timeline about an “attack” at Strathmore University which was later clarified to be a drill. The tweets depicted a scenario riddled with panic and chaos around the University.

Someone thought it was orchestrated by an infamous terror group.

Some were reporting there were gunmen inside.

A hashtag was quickly generated.

The keyword there is “unconfirmed” and there lies the problem. On social media, the updates about a certain event could be true or not and that is why verification is key. One of the various ways we seek verification about an incident is by tracking updates from people who are at the epicentre or by a statement from an authority. In this case, we started seeing tweets with pictures from alleged students who posted updates about the situation on the ground:

This picture is even more profound where it displayed students who had sought refuge on the side of the building.

It was later on reported to be a drill and confirmed by the University itself.


There are lessons to be learnt from this incident and how it was reported on social media:

  1. Not every information you see being posted on social media about a certain event is true. The pictures could be doctored and the information could be misconstrued. If you don’t know what is happening, seek clarification.
  2. Don’t tweet to give information about the said incident if you are not at the scene or you’re not in a position of authority to give more information to the public. Spreading wrong information will damage your credibility and people will end up not trusting you in the future even if you give factual information later on.
  3. Seek clarification from an authority that can be able to give more information about the incident. In this case, we had to wait for the official communication from Strathmore University and they were able to clear the air about the incident.
  4. Social media is an excellent tool for spreading information and if used well, it can be effective in helping people in need if there is a crisis. Don’t dole out incorrect information because it could lead to a person not being assisted or rescued in the process.