Misinformation on Twitter

Monday, July 13, 2009 at 2:05 PM | Filed under ,

I signed into Twitter a few minutes ago to see what was new with all the people I'm following. One of my friends posted about an Amber Alert, giving a brief description of the suspect's vehicle and license plate number. Twitter's a great tool to quickly spread urgent information like this, especially because it takes little effort to help propagate the information. All you have to do is copy and paste!

But I've read online that some people will post false information in such an alert on Twitter, either to see how fast a fake report might spread, or for more deceitful means, such as linking to a website to sell junk or spread computer viruses. I decided to check my friend's tweet against the Amber Alert information posted on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) website. I found information on the site which seemed to match my friend's description, but the license plate was off in one place!

It's great that Twitter allows for fast distribution of information, and I applaud people for passing along information which may turn out to be very helpful in rescuing these children. However, this is a clear example of how social networking sites like Twitter can also assist in spreading misinformation. The license plate number became a Trending Topic on Twitter, which means that it was among the most-tweeted terms on Twitter. People need to make sure to double-check information against a credible source (the NCMEC site for example) before reposting it.


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