On December 4, 2015, my Social Media world got tossed as I innocently, but rightly, Tweeted the astonishing fact that MSNBC had doxed someone — revealing identifying information about a living person — on live television during an impromptu terror tour of a suspect’s home. The person in question was Rafia Farook — mother of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook. Rafia lived in the same townhouse as her son, his terrorist wife, Tashfeen Malik, and the couple’s six-month-old baby girl. Here’s an image of the Tweet I sent after my photographic capture of the MSNBC live feed:
My Twitter feed instantly filled up with a flood of replies and forwards I could not contain or muster an adequate reply.
So, I did the only thing I could do — I sat and watched as my Sprout Social Inbox unendingly filled with forwards, replies and messages. The Inbox was scrolling so fast, my eyes could not keep up with the original Tweet:
I was astonished at the mix of pure hatred and condemnation my Tweet was receiving. I was being hated, and death-threatened, for doxing Rafia Farook — but what the trolls were misunderstanding was that MSNBC doxed her, not me, I was only reporting on the result of their doxing as a citizen journalist and, like it or not, I enjoy the same freedom of speech protection and fourth estate consideration provided by our Constitution as any mainstream media outlet.
You, too, have those very same protections by default and in situ.
I blurred some personal information about Rafia in the image that might assist in identity theft. I did not blur her face because your face is your face and she was already identified in the Press by the time my Tweet was published.
Those who supported my Tweet about the MSNBC doxing of a terrorist’s mother were not soothing, either. They were pretty much full of hatred for Rafia and her family — and instead of wishing death on me, they were wishing death on her and her infant grandchild.
Twitter tends to be drawn in black and white — life and death — and you’re either in the process of being actively loved or compulsively killed.
Here are the media details of my Rafia Farook doxing Tweet. 342,510 impressions — and still counting! — is still pretty wild considering the intention behind the Tweet was to simply mark the error of MSNBC, not create a firestorm of circular, swirling, hatreds.
The most disappointing part of the whole process was how the mainstream media responded to my Tweet. Many reporters stole my Tweet image without credit. I always confronted their thievery, and one well-known media reporter, and professor, publicly apologized on Twitter for using my image without permission. That was the right thing to do.
NPR contacted me by phone and email — and proved to be the most disgusting disappointment of them all. As a public television advocate, co-worker and friend, I had been supportive of the NPR mission, but in the end, the NPR media reporter turned out to be a living example of the failure of moral integrity.
The NPR media reporter left a long voice mail message moments after my Tweet was published, asking me to email the original image of the MSNBC live broadcast so he could “verify” it and use the story on air later that day at 5pm.
I don’t know why I complied with the request — in hindsight, I should’ve just ignored NPR and concentrated on trying to keep up with the upsweep in my Social Media Inbox — but I had a soft spot for the NPR mission and I returned the call.
I spent the next half-hour on the phone being grilled by the NPR media reporter about what I knew and saw and heard on MSNBC and I filled him in on every detail of the live broadcast as well as the sort of intensive feedback I was getting on my now-viral Tweet.
The NPR media reporter again asked me to email him the original photo — unblurred — so he could verify the image was authentic for his bosses.
The NPR media reporter gave me his email address and I sent the photo, and added more information. I was thanked by the NPR media reporter in a back-and-forth email conversation for my help.
Then, at 5pm that day, the same media reporter went live on an NPR show to discuss the doxing of Rafia Farook, and he used all my information without quoting me, or crediting me, as a source. Later, in the subsequent text update of the show published on the NPR website, I was ignored there as well.
You don’t have to ask to be quoted.
You also don’t have to verify a reporter will do the right thing and provide proper credit. They ask, you tell, they report on what you told them with verification. That’s Journalism 101: Don’t Burn Your Sources! Effective reporters don’t bury a source unless the source asks to be anonymous. I make no such request.
I was stunned NPR played so dirty, and I Tweeted the NPR media reporter after his broadcast — reminding him I had all his emails, and his voice mail, proving I knew everything he previously did not — and, of course, I was ignored.
He burned me. Never again!
I’m refusing to name the NPR media reporter because, I’ve learned, that sort of short-fingered vulgarian feeds off any sort of positive or negative attention, and I have no interest in fuelling a vetted troll.
In the end, there were some right results from my viral Tweet; I was able to fill part of my Boles.com Prairie Voice Archives page with a new subsection of international — Clippings | Citations | Referents — concerning the “MSNBC Live Air Doxing Rafia Farook.” The good is preserved there with the bad, and it’s all memorialized for any other future autopsies on the anatomy of a Tweet going viral.
Yes, embedded Tweets and Facebook posts are quotes, and should be credited as such because they arrive pre-published with proper attribution from a pre-authenticated source.
I still wonder why we haven’t heard from Rafia Farook. Does the FBI still have her locked down somewhere? What does she know, and how long has she known it?
Rafia Farook lived in the same townhouse as her terrorist kin — there’s no way she doesn’t have a mountain of valuable information to share — and I wonder if, one day, we will ever be allowed to know what she knew?