Police see getting out in front of social media with the facts is key

Boston bombings shed light on social media pros

BOCA RATON, Fla. - When the first bomb exploded at the Boston Marathon, twitter flew into a frenzy. Many tweets were helpful, but plenty proved to be problematic.

NBC News reporter Kerry Sanders remembers the chaos at the scene and online. 

"In Boston people were anxious to do something and they wanted to be amateur detectives and you can't do that," said Sanders.

Fake accounts and misinformation cluttered social media. For officers, the big lesson is to get out the facts.

"As an agency no matter what the event, a hurricane, shooting, you need to join the conversation and keep the information legitimate from the start," said Boca Raton Police Spokesperson Mark Economou.

Social media forces officers to release information faster. Agencies used to wait to update, claiming releasing information might jeopardize an investigation. But that's no longer an option.

Now that everyone has a smartphone, it's a race to report the truth before rumors spread. Economou says Boston police kept manning social media for days. 

"When the manhunt was on, they were there 24-7 putting out information, telling people what was going on," said Eocnomou.

"Never have we really seen Twitter take on a role like it did in Boston and it was effective," said Sanders.

A role Sanders predicts will only grow.

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