Knight Center
Knight Center


Don't be fooled: Five tips to check information on Twitter

There is no lack of stories about false or misleading material that comes out of the rush to publish information shared on social networks. In one recent case, the Brazilian sports journalists Farid Germano Filho of Pampa announced on Twitter that Argentine footballer Enrico Cabrito signed with the Brazilian Grêmio soccer club. Hours later, it was revealed that the athlete had been made up by netizens and Germano Filho's social media account had been hacked. Nevertheless, the news was widely circulated and even announced on television

"Attention! I was hacked! Attention! They are posting information WITHOUT my permission! ATTENTION!"

To help avoid similar mistakes in the future, the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas selected recommendations from journalists Steve ButtryAndy Carvin and Craig Silverman available online on how to verify information found on Twitter. Of course, it's always important to remember that verification never hurts and the urgency of the news should be considered before rushing to re-tweet it. It's the first step to avoiding a journalistic gaffe. 

1. Check the source's profile and verify its connections

Checking out the profile of the person who posted the news before passing it on is essential, especially if it’s from someone you don't know. Look at their bio, see if there's a website available and prior tweets that can help identify their interactions with other users. It's also useful to see whom the user follows and who follows them. With the website "When did you join Twitter" it's possible to verify if the user has been around for a while or is new to the microblog. Finally, try to contact the user directly using Twitter's @reply.

2. Pay attention to the information, hour and location

Tweets posted soon after a breaking news event, like a car accident, for example, could come from eyewitnesses. Note if the tweets were made around the time of the event. News posted hours later are more likely to just be retweets. In some cases, the physical location of the user is available at the bottom of the tweet. See if there are photos available and, if there are not, ask if the user could provide some. Photos can be doctored, so other sources are needed to gauge the information's veracity. 

3. Use advanced search 

Besides the credibility of the user who posted the information, it's important to uncover the context and find other sources. If the first user does not have their location services active, it's possible to find others by location and keywords related to the information in question through Twitter's advanced search. Look to see if the results have photos or videos. 

4. Crowdsourcing online

Users with an active following on Twitter can ask their followers to help verify information. Ask if someone was nearby when the event happened or if they know someone else who has details. Andy Carvin of National Public Radio is well known for this kind of social media curation. In this Storify, he explained how he and his followers were able to debunk a rumor about Israeli weapons in Libya mistakenly reported by news organizations in the United States. 

5. Go outside Twitter

It seems like a no-brainer but when news hits Twitter, check to see whether it's possible to contact official sources to verify the information, if there are local media organizations with more information or if it's possible to directly contact those involved in the story.


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