The world has begun to rely on social media to broadcast news. Twitter in particular offers an immediate news feed.
The wonder of social media is that it enables us to disseminate news quickly – very quickly.
Its inherent danger is that is also encourages citizen journalists and media operators to spread false information quickly – very quickly.
As a citizen journalist or media operator your credibility is 100% dependent on your accuracy. Your readers must be able to trust your work and the authenticity of your sources.
The link above leads to an excellent interview with University of British Columbia educator Alfred Hermida on ABC Radio National’s Media Report.
Here is a brief list of Dr Hermida’s insights into the use of Twitter as a news source:
1. Information that is correct spreads gradually and is spread by people with a significant and existing network of followers.
2. Conversely, information that is incorrect will most likely initially spread slowly because the source has few followers, then spike when someone credible retweets. A surge in Tweets is no indication of the reliability of the information.
3. Follow the digital trail:
How many followers does the source have?
How long has the Twitter account been in operation?
Check their digital trail – do they mention in previous tweets the town or city in which they claim to live?
Spam accounts are most likely to have been set up after news breaks.
Hoax accounts that appear to be credible can also be ‘verified’ and followed by genuinely credible people – followers and verification are no indication of the authenticity of an account.
4. In an emergency or natural disaster, information that is correct is likely to be loaded with typos, errors and spelling mistakes. When this information is retweeted by journalists, it is highly unlikely to contain simple errors.
Humans are masters of information illusion.
Verify before you amplify!