Patience used to be a virtue. Now it’s gold dust. Especially when it comes to mainstream media picking up social media intrigue. I refer you to the story of 11-year-old Keaton Jones, who went viral just a couple of days ago after his mother posted a video of him, crying, explaining how his classmates had bullied him and questioning the purpose of bullying in general. “Why do they find joy in taking innocent people and find a way to be mean to them?”Justin Bieber and Katy Perry rally in support of bullied boy Keaton Jones Read moreKeaton’s mother, Kimberly Jones, posted the video to her personal Facebook page where it gathered more than 22m views. As the video spread around Facebook and Twitter, many celebrities (Justin Bieber, Mark Ruffalo, Katy Perry, Snoop Dogg, Patricia Arquette, Chris Evans, Jennifer Lopez, LeBron James, Kendall Jenner among them) offered support to Keaton, either with words or messages, or Skype chats, or invitations to attend premieres and concerts and er, the Fox News set (because that is what every 11-year-boy dreams of). Some accused these celebs of “using” Keaton to signal their own compassion, but I think that’s a cynical take. The video was genuinely affecting. Though after $55,000 was raised on a GoFundMe page that a stranger established, I wondered why people weren’t donating to, say, anti-bullying charities, or schools initiatives. Or Yemen. I didn’t really understand how a pack of cash would stop Keaton having milk poured down his shirt. But it made sense that the celeb support might deter his antagonists.A post shared by Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) on Dec 10, 2017 at 7:20pm PSTThe problems started when photographs of Keaton’s mother were unearthed on Facebook in which she is smiling and holding the Confederate flag. (Keaton and his family are based in Tennessee). Another photo showed Keaton holding a stars-and-stripes flag and a friend holding the Confederate flag. There was also a post in which Kimberly Jones took aim at NFL player Colin Kaepernick and other athletes who have protested racial inequality by kneeling for the national anthem.Kimberly has either since removed the video, or made it private, after abusive remarks were directed towards Keaton, and she was called a “money-grabbing racist” (there was speculation she had set up a separate crowdfunding page herself). Unverified reports also came that Keaton was actually bullied because he had repeatedly used racial epithets against classmates – a claim his sister denied. So it was that Keaton went from being bullied by his classmates to being bullied by most of the internet. On Tuesday, Kimberly appeared on CBS News to protest her innocence: “Yesterday he was a hero, today the world hates us”, she said, in tears to match her son’s.There are so many issues to parse here it is difficult to know where to begin. There’s an argument that the initial video should have stayed in the realm of social media and not been picked up by mainstream outlets at all. But viral stories are often an easy win for traditional media struggling for attention online (the Keaton story was the most read on the Guardian’s website when it was published), and some internet culture stories are genuinely important to deep-dive into. And in this case, when the celebrities picked it up, it became a news item that warranted publication. The fact that the mother uploaded the video should have perhaps raised some flags. But more so, reporting that she had made racist comments on an Instagram account, which has since been proved fake, should have been checked. It was also reported that Keaton made an apology on behalf of his mother – except that Instagram account was fake too. At my last count, I could find 15 fake Instagram accounts. It is an obvious tell when the accounts consist of just five photographs, all in the public domain (hence why professional troll accounts go back weeks and months, and in the case of many online Russian actors, years), but these comments were picked up by news outlets (although not the Guardian).The story of Keaton Jones has become the perfect microcosm of mainstream outlets publishing social media events. Heartwarming social post; picked up by news outlets; major exposure; crowdfunding page set up; social media digging of story subjects; backlash; much fakery; major exposure … and so it goes on. As one wag put it, the Keaton Jones saga is “the most 2017 thing to happen in 2017”.I don’t know if Keaton’s mum filmed the video as a stunt to raise money or if she is racist (she argued that she posed next to the flag in an “ironic” moment, meant to be “funny”, as if that would make it ok), but much of the “evidence” against her has been debunked. Keaton also shouldn’t be held responsible for his mother’s actions. I’ll agree that his sister posing with a 9mm pistol isn’t a particularly good look, and I don’t know whether Keaton used the N-word against his classmates, but it shouldn’t be reported without a journalist bothering to find out the truth of it. When the principal of Keaton’s school was finally contacted, he said that the bullying incident had been dealt with and didn’t mention any epithets on his part.Homeless 'hero' charged with theft from victim of Manchester bombing Read moreMany of us, including news outlets, are becoming aware of fake news when it is of a political nat买北京pk10精髓 ure, but fewer checks and balances seem to be in place when it comes to viral feelgood stories (witness multiple heart-tugging stories on homeless people being debunked). Perhaps lighthearted posts that stay in the realm of social media are not worthy of such scrutiny, but when they are turned into news stories, checks should be made, as in the case of important posts on social media (terrorism attacks, political and public interest posts). It is important too, to note that online smearing has become a powerful tactic. It has been widely questioned this morning how so many people could vote for the alleged paedophile and now-defeated candidate Alabama candidate Roy Moore. But those people didn’t vote for an alleged paedophile – they believed the accusations against Moore to be nothing more than a smear campaign.Prevention is better than cure. Due process is better than correction. Who wants to be making the same kind of “Dewey Defeats Truman” mistake in 2017? Or be responsible for the downfall of an 11-year-old boy? We should be careful that in the rush for web traffic, we don’t end up car-crash reporting.