MIRROR THOUGHTS: Twitter Journalism — How Misinformation Get Reported As Facts


MIRROR THOUGHTS: Twitter Journalism -- How Misinformation Get Reported As Facts

A certain Nigerian journalist (or news anchor, for the lack of a better term) frequently uses “trending topics”on Twitter in his arguments about issues plaguing the country, without adequate fact-checking with its attendant consequences for widespread misinformation.

We’ve long known that Twitter does not drive readers to news sites which is the reason many media publications (who are culpable for the ignorance amongst readers) resort to click baits and catchy captions, in order to drive engagements, which in turn alters the algorithms on how events actually happens.

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It used to be a fun diversion, a place to hang out and goof around but currently, the app is a swamp.

The most prominent accounts, the ones that the algorithm (and the owner) enjoys, are engaged in open misinformation and the dissemination of falsehood.

The vast combination of possible misinformation and the actors that spread and interpret the message can result in a never-ending cycle of information pollution. Once a false message is out, it is easy for it to diffuse and get picked up in news coverage and publications that then get referenced back in social media posts. Misinformation has the greatest chance of becoming widespread when it contains content that exploits feelings of superiority, anger, or fear against another group.

A 2018 study by three MIT scholars has found that false news spreads more rapidly on the social network Twitter than real news does — and by a substantial margin.

“We found that falsehood diffuses significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth, in all categories of information, and in many cases by an order of magnitude,” says Sinan Aral, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and co-author of a new paper detailing the findings.

“These findings shed new light on fundamental aspects of our online communication ecosystem,” says Deb Roy, an associate professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab and director of the Media Lab’s Laboratory for Social Machines (LSM), who is also a co-author of the study. Roy adds that the researchers were “somewhere between surprised and stunned” at the different trajectories of true and false news on Twitter.

Moreover, the scholars found, the spread of false information is essentially not due to bots that are programmed to disseminate inaccurate stories. Instead, false news speeds faster around Twitter due to people retweeting inaccurate news items.

Is that enjoyable to journalists? What are you doing there?

Again, the traffic is negligible. For reporters, Twitter primarily exists as a self-glorification machine. YOUR name is associated with YOUR content. You get a scoop and maybe the BBC retweets YOUR Twitter account. It’s pretty cool!

But like… Do you really wanna go viral on Instablog or Gistlover? Is that fun for you? Do you still feel good about it?

My prediction is that journalists will slowly leave that place. It’s difficult to walk away from a big audience you’ve spent a decade accumulating, I know, but eventually the truth about what Twitter has become will creep in.

But how much longer are real journalists gonna put up with the assault and weaponisation of the truth?

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