Titanic submersible tragedy drawing web gossip: Misinformation, speculation abound, experts say

"The internet works a lot like gossip!" 

That’s according to USC Social Media Professor Karen North. North suggests that the gossip machine on the web about the tragic turn of events for the Titanic submersible and its five passengers has been brutal with lots of misinformation, bad humor and speculation.

"There’s really no check on fact and reality when people start gossiping online," North said.

There’s been online chatter about this journey being for the privileged. The ticket for an underwater front-row seat to see the Titanic is $250,000 per person. 

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Past passenger Fred Hagan says that’s how the private company’s CEO Stockton Rush raised funds.

"I know there’s a big controversy about wealthy people," Hagan said. "That’s how Stockton funded this cutting edge technology to open up the depths of the ocean and allow us access to the elements we need to power the green economy and that’s how he went about it."

To Karen North, what’s captured the imagination of many is that it’s a new tragedy on top of the Titanic’s tragedy. 

"People around the world, and especially people here in the United States, are intrigued by anything that involves the mystery of the Titanic," said North. "And now, the idea that a small group of people have been lost among the people lost with the Titanic is almost an amplification of the story we all share about the Titanic."

But, whatever people are saying and speculating.

Such is the case for Fred Hagan who says, "For those of us who know the people on board this is heart rending. It’s tragic, and you want desperately for a miracle, and you grasp at every straw."