Did Danbury Hospital post about the Sandy Hook shooting on Facebook a full forty-eight minutes before the first 911 call had been received by Newtown Police? No, that’s not true; the time on Facebook posts is dependent upon your time zone. For users who are not logged in, the default is Pacific Time, which is of course two hours behind Newtown, CT, where the shooting occurred. Facebook users who had logged in and had their time zones set to Eastern Time would see the correct time of the post, which was 11:47AM, or over two hours after the first 911 call was received.
The only evidence of this claim that I could find appears to be a tightly-cropped photograph of a device’s screen (rather than a screenshot), which was posted to conspiracy theorist James Fetzer’s blog:
Logically, it doesn’t make much sense that Danbury Hospital’s social media team, or whoever was in charge of their Facebook account back in December of 2012, not only had advanced knowledge of the Sandy Hook shooting, but somehow failed to wait an additional hour or so before posting about it. That’s to say nothing of the over two-hundred comments that not only failed to notice the error, but knew exactly what the post was referring to.
As it turns out, there’s actually of a very simple explanation for what’s happening here: the time that you see on Facebook posts (as well as comments, etc.) is wholly dependent upon your time zone, and not that of whoever posted it. For example, if you’re in Kaliningrad Time, then all posts will be shown in Kaliningrad Time. Etc. Of course this makes total sense; with twenty-four different time zones across the world, think about how confusing things could get otherwise. And if you’re not logged into Facebook at all, the site will default to Pacific Time, which is where Facebook is located.
So as long as you are logged into Facebook while physically located somewhere within the Eastern time zone (the same time zone as Danbury, CT, where Danbury Hospital is located) and your PC reflects that, then you’ll see that this particular post was actually published at 11:47AM:
11:47AM EST is over two hours after the first 911 call was received in connection with the shooting. Whoever took the original photo either had their device set to Pacific Standard Time or — and I believe this is much more likely — simply wasn’t logged into Facebook at all, again causing the site to default to PST. Fortunately, this is incredibly easy to replicate.
To demonstrate, here’s what that same post looked like after I logged out, maybe only two or three minutes after I captured the previous screenshot. Notice the email/password text fields are empty (indicating that I am not currently logged in) and the post now shows 8:47AM, just like screenshot from Fetzer’s blog:
Here is a short (:42), unedited video showing this in action:
- :07 – I view the post on Danbury Hospital’s Facebook page while logged in as myself and physically located in the Eastern time zone.
- :10 – The time and date of the post reads Friday, December 14th, 2012 at 11:42 AM.
- :20 – I log out of Facebook.
- :28 – I reload the same post while logged out of Facebook.
- :33 – I show that the username and password text fields are empty to confirm I have been logged out.
- :37 – The time and date of the post now reads Friday, December 14th, 2012 at 8:47 AM, or exactly two hours behind, which is the time differential between the Eastern and Pacific time zones.
If you have a Facebook account, or if you’re willing to create one, then feel free to try this one for yourself. Here’s a direct link to the post in question:https://www.facebook.com/danburyhospital/posts/10151305730744521