Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Why Twitter Hoaxes Will Always Be Short-Lived

On election night, as during Hurricane Sandy, Twitter’s network showed an ability to self-correct and keep disinformation from prospering.
November 7, 2012

Around 9 p.m. Eastern last night, my Twitter feed lit up with messages from respected journalists and bloggers declaring that NBC News had projected Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren the winner of the closely watched Senate race in Massachusetts, in which she was running against Republican Scott Brown. That’s funny, I thought. I had been watching NBC News, and I couldn’t recall the anchors announcing Warren as the winner.

In fact, it turned out to be another Twitter hoax.

It’s still unclear exactly who started the rumor, but once it was live it spread rapidly across the network, amplified by trusted media figures. News blogs posted about her victory, and celebration ensued among pro-Warren tweeters. But by 9:20 p.m. or so (Eastern Time) Twitter began to fact-check itself. Warren had not won, at least not yet. (Twenty minutes later NBC called her the winner for real.)

This is just the latest example of Twitter being used to spread misinformation. During Hurricane Sandy, one user was the source of several potentially dangerous false rumors. A message claiming the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange was flooded by three feet of water fooled even CNN and the Weather Channel.

However, that night, like last night, skeptical Twitter users helped the network self-correct fairly quickly.

Twitter is invaluable because of the quickness with which information can flow through the network (see “Information’s Social Highways”). News organizations, relief groups, governments, and citizens will continue to rely heavily on it for this reason.

The potentially dangerous flip-side is that untruths can propagate just as quickly, and there will inevitably be more hoaxes like the ones we saw during the hurricane and on election night. But if these two examples are any indication, misinformation won’t live long. Just be careful what you retweet.

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Uber Autonomous Vehicles parked in a lot
Uber Autonomous Vehicles parked in a lot

It will soon be easy for self-driving cars to hide in plain sight. We shouldn’t let them.

If they ever hit our roads for real, other drivers need to know exactly what they are.

stock art of market data
stock art of market data

Maximize business value with data-driven strategies

Every organization is now collecting data, but few are truly data driven. Here are five ways data can transform your business.

Cryptocurrency fuels new business opportunities

As adoption of digital assets accelerates, companies are investing in innovative products and services.

Mifiprex pill
Mifiprex pill

Where to get abortion pills and how to use them

New US restrictions could turn abortion into do-it-yourself medicine, but there might be legal risks.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.