Is social media becoming one big game of “broken telephone”?

by | Oct 6, 2015 | Social Media

At the beginning of September, the American Press Institute released its latest Twitter study entitled “Twitter and the News: How people use the social network to learn about the world”.

Though the study covers a variety of topics, from a general overview of Twitter usage to social recommendations for publishers, one of the most intriguing sections is related to false information and how it circulates around the social network.

As the Twitter community continues to experience exponential growth, there’s been a positive correlation in the rise of street and citizen journalism. Twitter offers a forum for users to vocalize their thoughts, opinions and feedback regarding current events, but also allows them to create their own news.

However, with the wealth and availability of information through the Internet, the possibility of becoming misinformed—or coming across regurgitated misinformation— has also increased. Sixty-four per cent of Twitter news users say they have encountered information on Twitter that they later found to be untrue.

To put this all into context, imagine that 74 per cent of users who use Twitter to read recent news daily. And a further 62 per cent of these users find news on their timeline, through people they follow.

This is an example of “secondhand” information—a user ingesting content that a different user has already read and shared. This means that the first user could have added their own misinformed thoughts, opinions or feedback on the news along with the story link, or the story itself may have initially presented misinformation that is now being regurgitated.

Now, does the rise of social media mean that users are more susceptible to being misinformed, or pass on misinformation? Luckily, data collected by the American Press Institute doesn’t seem to indicate that—only 16 per cent of Twitter news readers admit to posting or retweeting information they later found to be false.

Just as easily as misinformation can spread, however, Twitter can also correct itself (to some degree).

Fifty-nine per cent of Twitter news readers have seen follow-up tweets from an external source alerting them to misinformation, and 43 per cent admitted to seeing a follow-up tweet from the same source correcting the initial misinformation.

Users also look to sources outside Twitter to validate the information they’re consuming, with more than 78 per cent of respondents referring their queries to search engines to gather further information.  

MediaMiser wants to know: do you verify information you consume from Twitter? Do you typically take it at face value, or do you follow-up with some additional research? Let us know in the comments below.

Sara Chisholm


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