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Information Cascades on Twitter

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.299.8817&rep=rep1&type=pdf

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/business/media/how-fake-news-spreads.html

 

This paper analyzes how Twitter can produce information cascades within its user base. Social media networks are meant to serve as a medium for bidirectional communication between friends, companies, and media outlets, however, due to the nature of how Twitter works, one directional communication has become more common, even more so during times of disaster. With short tweets and the ability to share messages with groups of people rather than directing them to any individual person, responses aren’t as common as if the messages were to be sent directly.

 

However, there is more to the development of an information cascade. The paper also points out how Twitter users may see information in their feed that has not been verified. They are “uninformed” other than the information provided by the users they are following. Most users won’t fact check information they see in their feed with other more reputable sources and will instead just share the seen information with the rest of their friends, spreading the original information

 

While the ability to spread information so quickly and easily is quite useful, it is also very easy to see how this can become an issue. There have been multiple cases where one or a few people have posted completely inaccurate information and then people share the post, assuming the information is all correct. For example, one Twitter user posted pictures of a group of buses he saw near his home mentioning that they were carrying anti-trump protesters. It was later discovered that the buses were unrelated to the protests happening nearby. This was only after the tweet had been shared thousands of times and reached probably hundreds of thousands if not millions of people.

 

With people only relying on their immediate connections for information and at no point checking information online, information cascades develop with information spreading at an exponential rate. The next big task for social media networks (which they are already beginning to tackle) is to make questionable information on their website less prominent and make it more difficult to spread this information.

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