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Malaysian airline missing: Social media spreads false rumors about missing plane

The Malaysian airline that has now been missing for two days, Flight MH370, is suspected of crashing into the Gulf of Thailand. But that didn’t stop social media sites from ramping up and spreading bogus rumors that the plane had landed safely, says NBC News on Saturday.

A woman, believed to be the relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, cries as she talks on her mobile phone at Beijing’s airport Saturday.

As the video showed, U.S. and Malaysian officials are now investigating the incident for possible connections as a terrorist attack after two individuals listed as passengers on the flight manifest of the missing Malaysian craft were not on the plane. Records show both individuals reported their passports stolen over a year ago.

For more on that, see: Malaysia airlines plane: Terrorism concerns rise, stolen passports used on plane

News source The Malaysia Digest has been running continual updates. One of their earlier posts read:

Before Malaysia Airlines released its statement at 9:05 am, we were alerted at 9:45 am that Flight MH370 had resurfaced and landed safely in Nanming, China. Early reports indicated that the aircraft had experienced a cockpit electronics malfunction, a reliable source told Malaysian Digest.

It was said that the flight crew and all 239 passengers onboard were believed to be unharmed as some of the crew had already informed their families of their safety.

Chinese state run media outlet Global Times then incorrectly said that a signal from the missing aircraft was picked up by Vietnamese authorities:

A Vietnamese official of search and rescue said Saturday that the signal of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane has been detected, local media reported. The official said the signal… has been detected at some 120 nautical miles southwest of Vietnam's southernmost Ca Mau province.

Vietnamese officials later said this rumor was false.

Twitter users immediately started to relay the phony information:

Praying for passengers and crew on #MH370. Unconfirmed reports of an aircraft that has landed in China. – Chase Meyer @stcharlespilot

Got some inside news from a pilot uncle that #MH370 has emergency landed somewhere in China! Hope everyone is safe. RT pls. – MB™ #twinkel @melakaboy

NBC News says others on social-media speculated that “the plane could have been struck by a North Korean missile.” The South Korean government reported this week that North Korea had fired several short-range missiles, which likely fueled this guesswork.

Per NBC: “The Malaysia Airlines rumors echo the speculation and false stories that tend to whip through social media platforms in the wake of national tragedies. After last April's Boston Marathon bombing, for example, representatives for the social/news site Reddit were forced to apologize on behalf of users who falsely "identified" multiple people as the bombers.”

Confirmed reports indicate that officials believe the plane may have crashed into the Gulf of Thailand after a 12-mile-long streak of oil was photographed, seen here.

Latest news today on the missing plane includes reports that the jet turned around before it went down.

“Military radar suggests the missing Boeing 777 jet may have turned back before disappearing over the South China Sea,” Malaysia's air force chief Rodzali Daud said Sunday.

“There is a possible indication that the aircraft made a turn back,” Daud said, adding that authorities were “trying to make sense of that.”

A report from The Associated Press suggests that whatever happened on the flight occurred quickly, leaving the pilots no time to place a distress call, and said it could take investigators months, possibly years, to determine what happened.

Any sort of minor mechanical failure, even a larger concern like an engine shutdown, would still allow time for the pilots to radio in. The lack of communication indicates either something catastrophic occurred, or the flight crew was under duress.

“It initially appears that there was either an abrupt breakup of the plane or something that led it into a quick, steep dive. Some experts even suggested an act of terrorism or a pilot purposely crashing the jet,” writes the AP in their report.

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