On the 20th of July, a masked gunman opened fire on a crowded cinema in Aurora, Colorado, killing a dozen people, and wounding many more, before his gun jammed, and he was apprehended by police. This horrific crime shocked not just America, but the entire world. Social Networking websites were soon awash with heartfelt messages of condolence, from Denver to Dubai, commonly using the Twitter hashtag ‘#Aurora’ to categorise their response. Local church ministers used Social Media to organise prayer and memorial events, and journalists released up-to-date information via twitter and facebook. Social Media was, it would seem, playing an important role in helping the community come-to-terms with what had happened.
Then another ‘tweet’ hit our feed.
“#Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K[ardashian] inspired #Aurora dress ; ),” followed by a web-address to a store belonging to CelebBoutique, an online clothing retailer. Users following the #Aurora trend were incredulous, replying with messages ranging from angry profanity to “Wow. Ignorant much?”
After about an hour, the tweet was removed, and was replaced by an apology from CelebBoutique, explaining that their PR and SM manager was not based in the United States. However, as the saying goes: once it’s on the internet, it’s there forever. An overwhelming negative community response flooded the company’s facebook and twitter feeds, with readers calling for a boycott, and even, in some cases, death threats being made. One commenter on CelebBoutique’s facebook page pointed out that their Social Media manager being abroad was “no excuse,” as “some of the best early reporting [on the shooting] came from overseas, like the BBC etc.”
The response to this incident echoes similar happenings during the so-called Arab-Spring, whereby employees or web-crawling programs sent automated tweets from Kenneth Cole’s twitter account, claiming that the people of Cairo were in uproar because “…they heard our new Spring collection is now available…”