Screams and gunshots: Social media changed what the public sees and hears during school shootings

Scenes from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, were viewed by millions of people almost live on Wednesday, with gunshots and screams recorded for everyone on the internet to see and hear.

Students recorded their classmates hiding in classrooms as shots rang out around them. Those videos were then uploaded to Snapchat, a messaging app particularly popular among teenagers. The videos were findable via Snap Maps, a new feature of the platform that collects videos by geographic location and makes them available to the public. Twitter also hosted first-person video, including one of a SWAT team entering a classroom.

Those videos circulated quickly on other social media platforms and made their way onto major news broadcasts. By Thursday morning, Google searches for Snapchat videos were among the fastest rising search terms related to the shooting.

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Victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting
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Victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

Scott Beige - Geography Teacher

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Elizabeth James Watt​​​​​​​

Chris Hixon - athletic director

Photo Credit: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

15-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff

Photo Credit: Florida Youth Soccer Association

14-year-old Alex Schachter

Photo Credit : Getty 

14-year-old Cara Loughran

Photo Credit: Facebook

17-year-old Helena Ramsey

Photo Credit: Facebook

14-year-old Alaina Petty

Photo Credit: Facebook

14-year-old Gina Montalto

Photo Credit: Facebook

15-year-old Peter Wang
18-year-old Meadow Pollack (left)

Student Jaime Guttenberg

Photo Credit: Facebook 

Student Martin Duque

Photo Credit: Martin Duque/GoFundMe

17-year-old student Nick Dworet

Photo Credit: Instagram 

Football coach Aaron Feis.

Photo Credit: MSDfootball.com

16-year-old student Carmen Schentrup

Student Joaquin Oliver

Photo Credit: Facebook

Student Luke Hoyer

Photo Credit: Facebook 

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It was another sign of how smartphones and social media have changed how people learn about and understand major events almost as they are happening. The shooting Wednesday, in which a teenage gunman killed 17 people, stands out as a particularly raw example of the immediate and uncensored way in which these scenes unfold.

For a country in which school shootings have become a regular occurence, the social media videos provided an important vantage point that isn’t otherwise available, said Alfred Hermida, director of the graduate school of journalism at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

“What it does is highlight the intensity of the event,” Hermida said. “Because if you're seeing video taken by somebody caught up in the middle of something as it happens, it's much more visceral and emotional than a TV reporter standing outside a building saying, ‘Three hours ago inside this building, this happened.’”

The ubiquity of smartphones combined with evolving social media platforms have steadily made it easier to record and distribute first-hand accounts of breaking news events. Twitter may have emerged first as a social media platform for breaking news, but Snapchat took the lead on Wednesday.

49 PHOTOS
Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida
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Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school that reportedly killed and injured multiple people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Numerous law enforcement officials continue to investigate the scene. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: People wait for loved ones as they are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school that reportedly killed and injured multiple people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Numerous law enforcement officials continue to investigate the scene. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Students leave Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami on February 14, 2018 following a school shooting. A gunman opened fire at the Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused 'numerous fatalities' and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody. / AFP PHOTO / Eva Claire HAMBACH (Photo credit should read EVA CLAIRE HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school that reportedly killed and injured multiple people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Numerous law enforcement officials continue to investigate the scene. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Students are released from a lockdown outside of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. after reports of an active shooter on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (John McCall/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Medical personnel tend to a victim outside of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. after reports of an active shooter on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (John McCall/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Medical personnel tend to a victim outside of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. after reports of an active shooter on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (John McCall/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Police and security vehicles are seen at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami on February 14, 2018 following a school shooting. A gunman opened fire at the Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused 'numerous fatalities' and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody. / AFP PHOTO / Michele Eve SANDBERG / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Michele Eve SANDBERG has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [Byline: Michele Eve SANDBERG] instead of [Eva Hambach]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention from all your online services and delete it from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
Students react following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami on February 14, 2018. A gunman opened fire at the Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused 'numerous fatalities' and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody. / AFP PHOTO / Michele Eve Sandberg (Photo credit should read MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is seen after a shooting at the school that reportedly killed and injured multiple people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Numerous law enforcement officials continue to investigate the scene. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Security speak with people near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami on February 14, 2018 following a school shooting. A gunman opened fire at the Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused 'numerous fatalities' and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody. / AFP PHOTO / Michelle Eve SANDBERG (Photo credit should read MICHELLE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school that reportedly killed and injured multiple people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Numerous law enforcement officials continue to investigate the scene. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Students gather following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami, February 14, 2018 . A gunman opened fire at the Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused 'numerous fatalities' and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody. / AFP PHOTO / Michele Eve Sandberg (Photo credit should read MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
A student wears a Valentine's pin as she leaves Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami on February 14, 2018 following a school shooting. A gunman opened fire at the Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused 'numerous fatalities' and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody. / AFP PHOTO / Michele Eve Sandberg (Photo credit should read MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: Fire Rescue personnel work the scene at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school that reportedly killed and injured multiple people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Numerous law enforcement officials continue to investigate the scene. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Police and fire rescue vehicles converge on Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. after reports of an active shooter on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (John McCall/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
MAJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, PARKLAND, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 31, 2017: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Broward County, Florida. (Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images)
Students leave Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami on February 14, 2018 following a school shooting. A gunman opened fire at the Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused 'numerous fatalities' and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody. / AFP PHOTO / Michele Eve Sandberg (Photo credit should read MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
Parents confer with security following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami, February 14, 2018 . A gunman opened fire at the Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused 'numerous fatalities' and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody. / AFP PHOTO / Michele Eve SANDBERG (Photo credit should read MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers ride in the back of a pick up truck with a victim outside of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. after reports of an active shooter on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (John McCall/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
A law enforcement officer directs traffic outside of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. after reports of an active shooter on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (John McCall/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
A young woman who just walked out from the direction of the high school, who refused to give her name, gets a hug as she reaches the overpass at Coral Springs Drive and the Sawgrass Expressway just south of the campus of Marjorie Stonemason Douglas High School where a shooting occurred on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. (Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
A student reacts as she talks to a television reporter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami on February 14, 2018 following a school shooting. A gunman opened fire at the Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused 'numerous fatalities' and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody. / AFP PHOTO / Michele Eve SANDBERG (Photo credit should read MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
SWAT vehicles converge on Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. after reports of an active shooter on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (John McCall/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Students react at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami on February 14, 2018 following a school shooting. A gunman opened fire at the Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused 'numerous fatalities' and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody. / AFP PHOTO / Michele Eve SANDBERG (Photo credit should read MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
People react at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami on February 14, 2018 following a school shooting. A gunman opened fire at the Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused 'numerous fatalities' and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody. / AFP PHOTO / Michele Eve SANDBERG (Photo credit should read MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school that reportedly killed and injured multiple people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Numerous law enforcement officials continue to investigate the scene. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Students are released from a lockdown outside of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. after reports of an active shooter on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (John McCall/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school that reportedly killed and injured multiple people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Numerous law enforcement officials continue to investigate the scene. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Students are evacuated by police out of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school that reportedly killed and injured multiple people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Numerous law enforcement officials continue to investigate the scene. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Students react following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami on February 14, 2018. A gunman opened fire at the Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused 'numerous fatalities' and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody. / AFP PHOTO / Michele Eve Sandberg (Photo credit should read MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
Students react following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami on February 14, 2018. A gunman opened fire at the Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused 'numerous fatalities' and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody. / AFP PHOTO / Michele Eve Sandberg (Photo credit should read MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
Students react following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami on February 14, 2018. A gunman opened fire at the Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused 'numerous fatalities' and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody. / AFP PHOTO / Michele Eve Sandberg (Photo credit should read MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
Students are brought across Coral Springs Drive from the campus of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Waiting for word from students at Coral Springs Drive and the Sawgrass Expressway just south of the campus of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
SWAT vehicles converge on Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. after reports of an active shooter on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (John McCall/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Waiting for word from students at Coral Springs Drive and the Sawgrass Expressway just south of the campus of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Trauma surgeon Dr. Igor Nichiporenko (C) and director for emergency medicine Dr. Evan Boyar (R) address the media outside the Broward Health Emergency facility where victims were taken following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami on February 14, 2018. Seventeen people were killed when a 19-year-old former student opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at the Florida high school, the local sheriff said, calling the scene 'horrific.' Broward County Sheriff Steve Israel said the victims were a mix of students and adults, though he could not confirm if the adults were teachers. / AFP PHOTO / Michele Eve SANDBERG (Photo credit should read MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
Waiting for word from students at Coral Springs Drive and the Sawgrass Expressway just south of the campus of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Florida Governor Rick Scott (4th-L) visits Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a shooting that killed 17 people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. A former student armed with an AR-15 rifle opened fire at a Florida high school, killing at least 17 people, officials said, in a harrowing shooting spree that saw terrified students hiding in closets and under desks as they texted for help. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel identified the gunman as Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland who had been expelled for 'disciplinary reasons.' / AFP PHOTO / Gaston De Cardenas (Photo credit should read GASTON DE CARDENAS/AFP/Getty Images)
BROWARD, UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 14: Students meet their families following a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward, Florida on February 14, 2018. At least 17 people were killed Wednesday when a lone gunman opened fire on a Florida high school, according to police. The victims are a mix of students and adults, officials said. (Photo by Carlos Miller/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Police vehicles block the road to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, following a shooting that killed 17 people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. A former student armed with an AR-15 rifle opened fire at a Florida high school, killing at least 17 people, officials said, in a harrowing shooting spree that saw terrified students hiding in closets and under desks as they texted for help. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel identified the gunman as Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland who had been expelled for 'disciplinary reasons.' / AFP PHOTO / Gaston De Cardenas (Photo credit should read GASTON DE CARDENAS/AFP/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: Nathanael Clark (L) and his father, John Clark, speak to the media after Nathanael escaped the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Numerous law enforcement officials continue to investigate the scene. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: Sarah Crescitelli leans on her mother, Stacy Crescitelli (L) after she escaped the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Numerous law enforcement officials continue to investigate the scene. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The location where suspect Nikolas Cruz was caught by police at a townhouse in Pelican Pointe at Wyndham Lakes in Coral Cables, Florida following the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Febreuary 14, 2018. A former student armed with an AR-15 rifle opened fire at a Florida high school, killing at least 17 people, officials said, in a harrowing shooting spree that saw terrified students hiding in closets and under desks as they texted for help. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel identified the gunman as Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland who had been expelled for 'disciplinary reasons.' / AFP PHOTO / Michele Eve SANDBERG (Photo credit should read MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
Parents meet at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Coral Springs Hotel to pick up their children following a mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Parents meet at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Coral Springs Hotel to pick up their children following a mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
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The role of social media, smartphones and citizen journalists in breaking news events has been the subject of heated debate among experts. First-hand accounts spread quickly, so may include inaccurate information. Misinformation spread on social media has found its way into Google and Facebook during breaking news events.

Karen North, a professor of digital social media at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Journalism in Los Angeles, said that first-person video can help people understand what it is like to experience tragic events.

“There is an overwhelming desire to try to step in the shoes of others to try to figure out what it would be like if I were there,” she said. “Social media postings allow us to step inside of that experience.”

But, she said, problems arise when videos from fast-moving crisis situations are posted unfiltered onto social media platforms when there are still unanswered questions, even though it’s important to document.

“Then that becomes public entertainment at that point,” she said.

Jennifer Grygiel, an assistant professor of communications at Syracuse University and a social media expert, said social media companies should provide more context, framing and warning labels when tragedies are captured using their platforms.

“It’s almost reality TV of school shootings,” she said. “This could be causing emotional harm to everyone who is consuming this without warning.”

Grygiel also said social media tends to underplay the gravity of these events.

“It’s being normalized in a strange way and not being presented in its seriousness,” she said.

Snapchat in particular has taken steps to address these issues. The company employs a team of journalists that work to find and substantiate content uploaded to its platform in times of breaking news.

On Thursday, Snapchat’s Maps feature, launched in June 2017, provided a new way for videos to be uploaded, checked and distributed almost as events happen. Less than a week ago, the company made its Maps feature available on desktop, in part as a tool for journalists.

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Florida high school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz
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Florida high school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz
Nikolas Cruz is seen during a status check on his case at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. (Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Photo Credit: Broward County Sheriff’s Office
Nikolas Cruz (C) appears via video monitor with Melisa McNeill (R), his public defender, at a bond court hearing after being charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Susan Stocker/Pool
Photo Credit: Instagram
Suspected school shooter Nikolas Cruz makes a video appearance in Broward County court before Judge Kim Theresa Mollica on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Cruz is facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Suspected school shooter Nikolas Cruz makes a video appearance in Broward County court before Judge Kim Theresa Mollica on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Cruz is facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Suspected school shooter Nikolas Cruz makes a video appearance in Broward County court before Judge Kim Theresa Mollica on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Cruz is facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Suspected school shooter Nikolas Cruz makes a video appearance in Broward County court before Judge Kim Theresa Mollica on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Cruz is facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - FEBRUARY 15: Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where he allegedly killed 17 people, is seen on a closed circuit television screen during a bond hearing in front of Broward Judge Kim Mollica at the Broward County Courthouse on February 15, 2018 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mr. Cruz is possibly facing 17 counts of premeditated murder in the school shooting. (Photo by Susan Stocker - Pool/Getty Images)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - FEBRUARY 15: Prosecutor Shari Tate (L) attends the hearing for Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where he allegedly killed 17 people, during a bond hearing in front of Broward Judge Kim Mollica at the Broward County Courthouse on February 15, 2018 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mr. Cruz is possibly facing 17 counts of premeditated murder in the school shooting. (Photo by Susan Stocker - Pool/Getty Images)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - FEBRUARY 15: Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where he allegedly killed 17 people, is seen on a closed circuit television screen during a bond hearing in front of Broward Judge Kim Mollica at the Broward County Courthouse on February 15, 2018 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mr. Cruz is possibly facing 17 counts of premeditated murder in the school shooting. (Photo by Susan Stocker - Pool/Getty Images)
Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Stocker/Pool
Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Stocker/Pool TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Stocker/Pool
Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Stocker/Pool
Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill (L) speaks to Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz in court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. April 27, 2018. Taimy Alvarez/Sun-Sentinel/Pool via REUTERS
Nikolas Cruz, who gunned down 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, appears in a Broward County courtroom on July 16, 2018. (Taimy Alvarez/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
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Snapchat has sought to counter these problems in two ways: by limiting who can contribute to breaking news events, and by hiring journalists to make sure the videos that surface are vetted. Its Maps feature only pulls uploads from a geo-targeted area, limiting what reporters and the public can find.

Snapchat declined to comment.

Twitter has also been working to improve how it presents information during breaking news. The platform streamed local TV news outlets covering the shooting on Wednesday alongside its regular timeline — a first for the company. Google has also been working to filter out misinformation related to searches during breaking news.

Other tools, such as the ability to livestream via smartphone, have made social media a powerful force in breaking news events — a prospect that Hermida noted can also influence which events get covered, and which do not.

“The downside of that is that certain events get way more attention than other events because they're prominent on social media,” Hermida said.

Hermida said tragic events that happen in places where people don’t have smartphones to capture in-the-moment content can end up getting downplayed.

“The technology also shapes the news agenda, and the availability of these first-person videos will shape how those people cover it.” he said.

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Reaction to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida
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Reaction to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida

**Click through the following slides to see how lawmakers and well-known figures responded to the shooting on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.**

(John McCall/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavi… https://t.co/3mSYrtTng6
We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job. And until we can hon… https://t.co/LWGSkzRapH
No words, no actions, no laws are enough until we end this epidemic of school shootings in our country. My heart is… https://t.co/tjXGNhDN4e
My heart is broken again — this time for the victims of the Parkland school shooting, and the families whose childr… https://t.co/cZcyDaUIUV
My heart is heavy over the school shooting in Florida. Keeping all affected in my thoughts & prayers.
April 16, 2007, was the worst day of my life—when 32 people were shot and killed at Virginia Tech. Nearly 11 years… https://t.co/c3cBLo8HKF
Imagine your child never coming home from school. Then imagine having to tell that story to every new person you me… https://t.co/hbl4tRBsig
Don't tell me tomorrow isn't the appropriate time to debate gun violence. If you're a political leader doing nothin… https://t.co/iLM5dP8YW7
I am at a loss for what more to say. I grieve with the families in Parkland today. I grieve with the families acros… https://t.co/PaYjuPSkw8
Heard the word “tragedy” 100 times already about the school shooting - not really, by the classical definition: tra… https://t.co/asfO6NFmkz
Praying for the innocent lives lost, their families and the Parkland, Florida community in the wake of today’s unspeakable tragedy.
Broward school shooting--There will be prayers from Blabbermouth Don, Pence the Grinch, and their rightwing cohorts… https://t.co/rfySOFaB6X
Another senseless tragedy at an American school. My heart is with the victims and their families. When will we wake… https://t.co/QFLOKCDwZU
Praying for everyone at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Just spoke with Broward Undersheriff to ensure they h… https://t.co/lXBLWVHVCS
Sending my love to #parkland. #guncontrol #policyandchange https://t.co/lGnYTytBfm
Just spoke with @POTUS about shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. My thoughts and prayers are with the… https://t.co/Lum03FQg79
The accounts from today's school shooting in Parkland, Florida strike fear into all Americans. Is it safe to send o… https://t.co/6gbokHm4j2
We owe it to our children and our teachers to keep them safe while at school. Prayers won't do this: action will. C… https://t.co/0KGNfJSour
Sen. Chris Murphy addresses Florida school shooting on Senate floor: "Let me just note once again for my colleagues… https://t.co/sZEKbUPvqY
Heartbroken over the news of another school shooting. This is the 18th in 45 days of 2018. Students & teachers shou… https://t.co/MLgvZc3eFq
Yeah, it’s pretty rough to talk about shootings right after they happen. I know if someone was burning down house… https://t.co/eFbx9wtHlJ
I’m horrified by the reports coming from Parkland, Florida. Please take a moment to pray for the victims and first… https://t.co/t0TqSWZZVM
Relieved that the shooter is in custody. Praying for the victims and their families during this harrowing experien… https://t.co/I4BQ1bGscQ
Please join me in praying for the students, faculty, and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, as well as… https://t.co/dlvULnKn6E
It’s so easy these days to just scroll by a story like this. But this is developing and we should pay attention. Th… https://t.co/RgxgC5ZEuj
Devastating news from Florida. As further details emerge, join me in praying for everyone at Marjory Stoneman Dougl… https://t.co/5jrawYUYSq
My heart deeply hurts for the children and their families in South Florida that are going through a living hell. T… https://t.co/AipSSV7rM0
Another school shooting. Sad. Prayers to the families #ParklandShooting
Just reading about the shooting at the High School in Parkland, Florida. Thoughts & prayers with all those affecte… https://t.co/OWtOUJgBhx
As we send our thoughts & prayers to the people of Parkland, Florida how about we, the people & govt of America, ac… https://t.co/rR8HFlnZeg
My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or an… https://t.co/RFJxgM1jhm
We have to do more to protect our children our teachers our families our people, no Matter what ! 🙏🇺🇸
We’ve been praying. It’s time to work. It’s time to change. Faith + works. Prayer + action. https://t.co/J5e2Y0DL8i
Prayers to everyone in Parkland Florida 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻
If people can blame drug dealers for the drug problem then we can blame the @NRA for the mass shooting problem.
Today is the day that inevitably comes when your prayers don't do anything to prevent it, but your vote might. https://t.co/1HBkioPDcA
These lawmakers took the most money $$ from the @NRA https://t.co/TzJtZ5lgMq
Praying for all impacted by the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward, especially th… https://t.co/Qe8PhyTev4
My heart goes out to the victims who were killed or injured, and their families, in the school shooting in Florida.
If people can blame drug dealers for the drug problem then we can blame the @NRA for the mass shooting problem.
Our prayers go out to the families and friends of victims in Florida.
My heart goes out to all those affected by the shooting in Florida. I am praying for these precious children and th… https://t.co/3oPyygSjaq
My heart breaks again today at news of the school shooting in Florida. It's long past time for action to stop the g… https://t.co/w0KCn7RYu7
Lots of people lamenting "nothing will change" today. That's what people said before the Montgomery boycott. Th… https://t.co/uflj5KzeBL
As we rise this morning let us pray for the victims and families of this horrific tragedy that has fallen on our co… https://t.co/GC2rrpU3Bs
Our community has suffered devastating tragedy. We lost sons, daughters, teachers, coaches, friends, neighbors, bro… https://t.co/gbaIaUQlKw
Prayers without accordant action are silent lies told to oneself, heard by no God, amounting to nothing. Action is… https://t.co/6nscffCxJ4
Like thousands in South Florida, we sent the boys to school in Broward County this morning... there are no words to… https://t.co/wsVhErOoHb
Just heard the tragic news about Florida. My heart breaks for the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.… https://t.co/0fHsqfWGky
Our hearts are shattered by the terrible news about Parkland… love you so so much Florida ❤️
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