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#RIPKamo - The Twitter Story Which Blurred the Line Between Fact and Fiction

If the role Twitter played in breaking the news of David Bowie's death showed us anything, it's that almost every kind of news story has the potential to appear on the tweet feed well before the outlets are able to write anything about it. This is normally a good thing, as Twitter isn't beholden to the same biases and standards as the print media, it's just a free-for-all. The problem is, and will continue to be, authenticity.

Even taking into account how many skeptics operate on the platform, some falsified stories are going to slip through the cracks. So it was with Kamogelo Peterson, a Johanessberg resident who many believed had been murdered over the weekend. The story was first brought to light by Twitter user Khuthi Makananise, and it quickly started gaining ground and intrigue in equal measure. Then newspapers starting talking about it, fueling the assumption that this was a real case.

Thing is, it wasn't. The entire thing was a fictional narrative thought up by Khuti, as a narrative designed to highlight the amount of abhorrent violence against women which goes on in South Africa. Once the story had reached critical mass, being shared by thousands, printed in South African papers and even investigated by the police, Khuti came clean, apologising for the deception but standing by the point that she'd been trying to make.

The reaction to this news was broad and varied. Some (in particular the understandably embarrassed print journalists) were utterly irate, while others supported the message behind what she did, even if they themselves had been duped too. In particular the South African equal rights society, The Department of Women, praised Khuti, and reiterated the point about the fact that real woman were being raped and killed in the country every day, and Khuti did her part to draw attention to that.

Some other papers took it more as a lesson going forward than a slight. The editor of the Star, Kevin Ritchie, stated that "We are doing whatever we can to learn from this because this is not the journalism we pride ourselves on practicing." The same paper later approached Khuti for a short interview about the incident.

While it's a little unsettling that she waited as long as she did to reveal the truth, and that she retweeted so many messages of grief and sympathy without so much as a hint that it was a fiction, it's hard to get away from the fact that Khuti made everyone think long and hard about the hell so many South African women have to go through, and the way a story can gain social media traction before all the facts are clear.

In this instance, little to no harm was done, but in previous cases people who were thought to have committed one atrocious act or another were subject to witch hunts which sometimes led them to fear for their lives or even go into hiding, only for it to become clear that they had done nothing wrong. Twitter is a vital source for breaking news, but far from the most reliable one.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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#RIPKamo - The Twitter Story Which Blurred the Line Between Fact and Fiction Reviewed by Unknown on Friday, January 15, 2016 Rating: 5

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