Social media helped fuel Hawkeyes rumors - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Social media helped fuel Hawkeyes rumors

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BLACK HAWK CO. (KWWL)-- From online message boards to Twitter and Facebook, social media sites helped fuel the fire that Iowa Hawkeyes could be in hot water.  Since the official news broke Tuesday, even this website KWWL.com has had high traffic on the story.  Hot topics like this keep the online rumor mill churning.  But experts warn you to be wary of believing everything you learn from social media sites.

If you follow Hawkeyes news, you didn't have to look far Monday to find a slew of rumors about Iowa football players.  You could find everything from Facebook posts questioning Jewel Hampton's future with the team to allegations that up to 20 players may have failed drug tests.  And the University of Iowa admits Tuesday's press conference was a direct response to the online rumor mill.

"You take into account what was starting to sound like all sorts of things being said on the social networks, maybe beyond that, we just decided let's sit down and have a conversation knowing there's some limit to what we can say, but to talk about as much as we could," said  U of I Athletics Director Gary Barta.

Experts say it's no surprise.  Social media's design allows for everyday people to add fuel to the rumor fires.

"Social media is like gasoline for the online rumors.  Basically because there is no way to verify the information right away.  And the speed to disseminate the information is just amazing because each individual is able to broadcast in his or her own way," said Sarina Chen, associate professor of mass communications at the University of Northern Iowa.

Some internet users did ask questions about what they were reading.  But it didn't stop the chatter.  Chen says social media users should take what they read on the sites with a grain of salt and to be careful when spreading information to others.

"It's very important that everybody act as a journalist.  Don't spread a piece of information until you know it's been verified.  That's the only way to stop the snowballing of a rumor," said Chen.

After all, any kind of negative rumor is damaging to its subject, especially if it turns out to be false.

Chen says it's crucial for businesses and organizations to stay on top of what's being said about them in the social media.  In part, so that damage control, like Tuesday's Iowa news conference, can help stop the rumor mill in its tracks.

During Tuesday's Hawkeyes press conference alone, hundreds of new messages were being sent out about the team on Twitter each minute.  And message board posts have even discussed how social media sites allowed Hawkeyes rumors to spread.

Online Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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