Thursday, November 26, 2015

Evaluating Social Media

According to some reports, there are approximately over 3 billion online users in the world. As the number of social media users increase, its relevance to daily life has become increasingly important. Anything from where are users at any given time to providing emergency and/or disaster related information can be shared on these sites. The information is posted easily, quickly and in real-time. Users can respond, provide alerts and/or feedback just as quickly.  

Recently however, particularly in the area of emergency alerts, the importance of verifying and fact-checking online posts has now made it to the public sphere. After the recent tragic attacks in both Paris and Beirut, much has been said about how social media has or has not assisted in providing credible reports during those critical times. 

While it can be said that through social media, information can be relayed and forwarded at the speed of light, it is also something to be wary of as well. What sort of information is forwarded and by whom is just as important as the postings themselves. “Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults who use Twitter get news on the platform, according to a recent survey.” (Pew Research)

Evaluating the accuracy of information that is posted should be high on the list, particularly for government and media agencies. Some items to keep in mind, while evaluating postings on social media as shared in a report by Johns Hopkins University:

Location of the source - are they in the place they are tweeting or posting about?
Network - who is in their network and who follows them? Do I know this account?
Content - Can the information be corroborated from other sources?
Contextual updates - Do they usually post or tweet on this topic? If so, what did past or updated posts say? Do they fill in more details?
Account age - What is the age of the account in question? Be wary of recently created accounts.
Reliability - Is the source of information reliable?


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