How the Name “Mulugeta” Got into Social Media Frenzy

CNN crew Juliette Kayyem, Chris Cuomo and Anderson Cooper sifting through their mobiles for updates on Boston bombing investigation. (Photo: Tampa Bay Times)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: April 27, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Prior to the massive manhunt across Boston last week that eventually zeroed in on the two Chechen-born brothers suspected in the Marathon bombings, there were some cringing moments for the Ethiopian community during the media’s now infamous frenzy when tweets begun to appear with the name “Mulugeta” apparently picked up from local police radio communications.

According to The Atlantic Magazine at 2:14am Eastern on Friday, April 19th, “an official on the police scanner said, ‘Last name: Mulugeta, M-U-L-U-G-E-T-A, M as in Mike, Mulugeta.’ And thus was born the newest suspect in the case: Mike Mulugeta. It doesn’t appear that Mulugeta, whoever he or she is, has a first name of Mike. And yet that name, ‘Mike Mulugeta,’ was about to become notorious.”

“A single tweet references Mulugeta at the time his name was said on the scanner. A Twitter user named Carcel Mousineau simply said, ‘Just read the name Mike Mulugeta on the scanner.’ It was retweeted exactly once. In the unofficial transcript of the scanner on Reddit, at least as it stands now, the reading of the name was recorded simply: ‘Police listed a name, unclear if related.’”

What came next was a rapidly unfolding of false news. “This is the Internet’s test of ‘be right, not first’ with the reporting of this story,” Greg Hughes, who had been closely following developments online, tweeted. “So far, people are doing a great job.” Then, as The Atlantic noted, at 2:43am he declared, “BPD [Boston Police Department] has identified the names: Suspect 1: Mike Mulugeta.”

Tadias became aware of the trending conversation on Twitter when another post from the user Whodini Bolero turned up later that morning:

“The information was spreading like crazy,” the report added, quoting Kevin Michael (@KallMeG), a cameraman for the Hartford, Connecticut CBS News affiliate, who tweeted, only seven minutes after Hughes’ announcement, that “BPD scanner has identified the names: Suspect 1 — Mike Mulugeta.” The unconfirmed identification was subsequently retweeted by several media professionals, including Andrew Kaczynski at BuzzFeed, reaching “far and wide.”

The Atlantic also highlights that last week’s “Misinformation Disaster” was not limited to Twitter and Facebook. Cable Television and wire services, such as CNN, Fox News and the Associated Press all wrongly reported two-days early that an arrest had been made, earning a rebuke from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Click here to read The Atlantic Magazine’s story.

UPDATE: Suspect Charged in Boston Bombing
The FBI Criticizes the News Media After Several Mistaken Reports of an Arrest (NYT)
Mistaken reports highlight dangers for media (Tampa Bay Times)
NBC’s Pete Williams: Media Hero of the Boston Bombing Coverage (The Atlantic)

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1 Response to “How the Name “Mulugeta” Got into Social Media Frenzy”

  1. 1 UPDATE: Suspect Charged in Boston Bombing at Tadias Magazine Pingback on Apr 22nd, 2013 at 11:58 pm
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