Tweets "report" unrealized Armageddon at Grand Central Terminal
It didn’t spawn as much hysteria as Orson Welles’ famous “War of the Worlds,” but Wednesday’s Internet-fueled false alarm at Grand Central Terminal wasn’t that far off. Twitter fanned a dose of commuter terror yesterday afternoon, with text-happy straphangers reporting Armageddon at the transit hub.
“Detour asap! Grand Central shut down, SWAT teams, cops everywhere. Anyone inside?” one New Yorker tweeted.
But according to NYC Transit, the real disturbance was merely a suspicious package left on the roadbed of the uptown tracks for the No. 4, 5 and 6 trains at 1:36 p.m. Service on the lines was suspended and the NYPD evacuated the station, as is protocol.
The package, which was a harmless box of some sort, was cleared at 2:11 p.m. and subway service resumed shortly after.
“It turned out to be nothing and that was it,” a police spokeswoman said.
But the fear mongering fire had already let loose on Twitter, with tweets about the SWAT team shutting down the terminal. One user linked to an old article about the 2007 steam explosion near the terminal as the cause of the pandemonium, and the link spread through re-tweets.
“NYC Explosion near Grand Central-NYPD, Mayor's Office: It's Steam, Not Terrorism -One Fatality, At Least,” one woman tweeted.By 5 p.m., “Grand Central” rocketed to the second highest search term in Google, just behind “Haiti earthquake damage.” The topic spawned hundreds of tweets.
The alarm ended after news reports about the suspicious package were posted on Twitter, but the tweets kept flying, with users then sarcastically blaming the imagined mayhem on:
- “An invasion of Scientologists”
- A “zombie attack”
- Someone who “saw something & said something so more people said something who didn’t see anything”
In the end, tweeters took as a lesson in the limits of the social networking tool reporting actual news.
“Grand Central not shut down. Use Twitter responsibly,” one user wrote.