Update: Statement from news director at WOIO at the end of post.
First off: thoughts and prayers with the victims, friends, staff, students and families at Chardon High School after today's awful, awful shootings.
The news has been fast and furious since just around 8 a.m. this morning when a teenager opened fire in the cafeteria at Chardon high school, killing one and injuring four others.
Shockingly, not all of it has been accurate. And while social media is particularly wonderful in keeping the world up to date with breaking news in situations like this, it's also a medium through which misinformation flows rapidly. You know that already, though. The case of the alleged Twitter photo of "TJ Lane" is a good case study in case you need to be refreshed.
To be clear, the photos showing a teenager with two guns and a message that appears to read "02-26-12" and "high school massacre" are not of TJ Lane. Chardon students themselves have tweeted that it's not him.
But they've been dubbed as such by everyone from 19 Action News here in Cleveland to Alan Cox to Q104 to WBNQ in Bloomington, IN, not to mention about half of Twitter's users. (We've got a call in to WOIO to see what sort of confirmation they had before running the photo on the air and on their site. We'll let you know what we hear back.)
Steve Huff had been blogging the situation this morning and posted the supposed Twitter photos as well. He later removed them after actual photos of Lane from Facebook and the school yearbook emerged and looked dissimilar enough to the gun picture that commenters were raising questions.
The photos in question actually started showing up on Omegle last Friday with a message that the poster was going to storm his school with guns and kill everyone he could before killing himself.
If you look closely, the date actually reads 02-24-12, not 02-26. [As an aside, someone should find this kid too, before something happens.]
A series of pictures from the Omegle posts and 4Chan entry were tweeted by @dementadora on Friday.
Skip ahead to this morning when @Frhooo posted a screengrab of the 4Chan entry plus the jpgs with the message "#Chardon High School."
As everyone was searching Twitter for any tweets breathing new information into the shooting when news broke this morning, @Saltn4Dollars finds the jpg in the tweet about Chardon and relays the info with a question mark. It doesn't take long before users start asserting that this was a picture that TJ Lane had posted to his Twitter account last night, a story that gained traction after one student was interviewed on TV and said that TJ had in fact tweeted that he was going to bring a gun to school.
No one seems to know what TJ Lane's Twitter handle is, or if he actually had one. That hasn't stopped outlets from reporting that tidbit anyway.
Updated: Here's WOIO News Director Dan Salamone on the station's decision to use the "Twitter" photo with their Chardon story —
"You can say that's not him, we don't know if it is or is not. We are still trying to get confirmation, that's why we blurred the face. We were told by people in Chardon that it came from his Twitter account, which has since been deactivated by police. We have not had police confirm whether it is him or not, that's why we're not showing his face. We've had probably 20 people look at those pictures with the guns and the picture of TJ Lane from his Facebook. Half say it's him, and half say it's not him. I'm looking at it, and there's a very similar hairline, but the eyebrows look slightly different, and the nose is slightly different. But those things change depending on how you take pictures. They're not definitive. We have calls out to the FBI to see if they have an opinion on where they came from, and we're going to continue to use them with the identity blurred until we get some understanding of who that is and where they came from. It could be a hoax. If it's a hoax, we'll tell our viewers."