prank tweet

A message left by a Twitter user claiming to be trapped under rubble after a powerful earthquake later turned out to be fake, causing outrage across Japan.

In the early evening of Friday, December 7,  a magnitude-7.3 earthquake with its epicentre off the northeast coast of Japan caused tremors so large that the Tokyo cafe in which my boss and I sat fell silent as patrons no doubt began wondering whether they ought to take cover beneath their tables. Windows rattled and the entire building creaked and swayed for almost five minutes after the tremors stopped.

As people reached for their mobile phones, expressions of concern could be seen throughout the room as talk of “possible tsunami” and “northeast Japan” appeared on social networks and news sites.

Soon after, a tweet (pictured above) appeared online asking for help and requesting that the message be shared as much as possible. Within the next hour, concerned Twitter users had retweeted the message more than 13,000 times, with many sending messages asking for more information about the user’s location and encouraging them to remain calm.

When the writer of the original tweet resurfaced hours later, however, and began mocking those who fell for the prank, people were understandably very upset, and soon began demanding that the tweet writer’s real identity to be determined and for them brought to justice.

“Hahaha, you fell for it! You guys really are dumb, aren’t you! Like hell I’d use Twitter if I were really in trouble!”

Not the kind of message that concerned internet users were expecting, we’re sure you’d agree.

The tweet came from user @Reonandnene, who was later revealed to be a highschool student. Despite the story being picked up by numerous media outlets, however, the user has yet to offer any words of apology, further angering the public who feel that the tweet was in extremely poor taste.

With many people still homeless as a result of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami and nuclear disaster, not to mention the tens of thousands of people who were killed, Japan is still very much in a state of recovery. Even slight tremors are enough to put people on edge, and with this heightened sense of awareness, it’s only natural that people would be  ready to respond to news of someone trapped and crying for help. So when @Reonandnene reappeared online poking fun at those who took the tweet seriously, Twitter users were understandably angry:

This is absolutely unforgivable.

There really are some genuinely heartless individuals out there.

Zero morals.

Seriously- stop this crap. It’s not cool.

There should be a penalty for this kind of thing.

So this was just a sick joke? It’s a shame we can’t do something about people like this.

On the subject of taking action, many internet users are demanding that the real identity and personal information of mean-spirited joker be ascertained and they be brought to justice. This incident comes just weeks after another Twitter user wrongly accused a fellow commuter of reading pornography on a train, which ended with everything from the accuser’s name and address to recent highschool test scores being posted online. As angry as people are at Friday’s fake tweet writer, many internet users are calling for calm and stressing that retaliation is not the answer.

Although the cruel prankster mockingly asks why anyone finding themselves in dire straits would turn to the social network, both Twitter and Facebook — accessible by 3G and LTE connections even when the regular phone networks went down — soon became indispensable methods of communication after the earthquake last year, with many unable to contact loved ones by any other means.

Although we’re sure we’d all rather live in a world where distasteful pranks like this didn’t exist, we here at RocketNews24 at least would sooner respond to 1,000 false tweets and be laughed at before ignoring a sceptically genuine one, and we hope that many of you would do the same.

UPDATE: We are now receiving reports stating that officials from the private school Twitter user @Reoandnene attends, Tezukayama Gakuin Izumigaoka in Osaka, have gone on record to apologise for their student’s distasteful joke. We have yet to see any sign of activity on the student’s Twitter account, however, nor has offered any form of apology in person. We’ll have more for you as soon as we get it.

Source: 秒刊 Sunday