Thunder and lightning ripped through East Lansing, Michigan forcing a weather delay during the much anticipated November 4, 2017 game against Big 10 rival Penn State. Attendance for the game was listed at 71,605. The stadium was completely evacuated. The contest would resume 3 1/2 hours later.
“As soon as the area is deemed safe, the stadium may re-open and public address systems will notify you of that occurring.”
Please note the emphasis on using the jumbotron to convey critical instructions (not social media platforms like twitter and facebook). Now this doesn’t mean that social media shouldn’t be trusted. Obviously, it can be a useful tool for disseminating information. For example, weather-related updates, designated take-shelter areas, alternative traffic routes, etc. However, in stadium emergency situations, it is imperative to rely exclusively on the public address system in tandem with the video monitors. Because it’s the superior and most effective way to initially reach everyone in a clear, cohesive, unified fashion.
Here’s why this is important.
There’s basically a swath of social media accounts affiliated with Michigan State University and Spartan football. Let’s focus specifically on twitter.
Michigan State University has a seemingly endless number of twitter feeds related to their NCAA DIvision I football team. Michigan State University, MSU Police, MSU football, MSU marching band, MSU administration, MSU alumni, Spartan Stadium, Spartan athletics and so on. But wait a second. There are some additional twitter feeds you may have failed to consider — The Big 10 Network, the NCAA, NCAA football, Fox Sports, ESPN, various commentators, reporters and sports analysts, etc. And guess what? Some of the 70,000+ fans are utilizing twitter as well. Let’s just agree that there’s a wide array of twitter accounts directly related to game day activity. Any of them could be used to influence real-time, real-world behavior.
There’s even a twitter account for the MSU mascot… Sparty @TheRealSparty. Hmm, kinda reminds me of someone. Oh yeah, Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump.
Well, on November 2, 2017, just two days before the MSU-PSU game, a “twitter customer support employee” disabled Donald Trump’s twitter account. For 11 minutes, the account was both inactive and temporarily deleted. All because someone apparently had an “axe to grind” on their final day of employment.
Of course, I’m virtually certain that every twitter account related to the MSU-PSU game entailed a much higher degree of security than the POTUS account. In case you even need to ask, this is referred to as “techno-sarcasm.”
Now fortunately, nothing bad could ever happen with any of these twitter accounts. Right? Nobody would ever try to release an “info-bomb” or throw a “cellular monkey wrench” into the situation. Nobody would dare test or try to exploit the vulnerabilities in their stadium incident command structure. Of course not!
So let’s make sense of this on a grander scale.
There’s a massive security disconnect in play. And it’s a pretty obvious one. In the case of Spartan Stadium, it’s 70,000+ active cell phones vs. 1 public address system.
Human beings are a twisted bunch. If there’s a way to kill people (in this case, without conventional weapons), I think they’ll eventually stumble upon it. Oh yeah, it’s free too! Nice touch, eh? Think about it. The military uses fire to burn people, water to torture people, bullets to kill people, radiation to sicken people… isn’t it a little naive to think that someone wouldn’t try to create a panic… and synthesize a human stampede designed to injure and crush people?
All of these hacking incidents. All of these viral hoaxes. All of these phishing scams. All of this social media tampering. All of this spam. All of this discussion about “weaponized information.”
There’s one commonality. These events happen. Then, people complain about it for the duration of a news cycle. Yet nobody is held accountable. And the incidents are quickly dismissed and conveniently forgotten.
One of these days, I suspect something “bigger” will transpire. A large venue, likely a football stadium will be targeted with a saturation of false information (bomb threats, phony evac orders, etc.). And everyone will ask the same exact question… “Why didn’t anyone tell us that something like this could happen (or be attempted)?”