An analysis in Natural Hazards, looked at four false rumors — two each from the Boston Marathon and Hurricane Sandy, including an infamous falsehood about the New York Stock Exchange flooding. The authors looked at whether Twitter users spread the false news, sought to confirm it, or cast doubt upon it:
•86 to 91 percent of the users spread false news, either by retweeting or “liking” the original post.
•5 to 9 percent sought to confirm the false news, typically by retweeting and asking if the information was correct.
•1 to 9 percent expressed doubt, often by saying the original tweet was not accurate.
Things are happening in real time so perhaps that can be forgiven. But even after knowing it was false they did little:
•Less than 10 percent of the users who spread the false news deleted their erroneous retweet.
•Less than 20 percent of the same users clarified the false tweet with a new tweet.
Obviously some users may have done nothing at all, and users who logged on an hour later may have gotten correct information, but in a world where lies go around the world before the truth can put on its pants this may be worrisome. Natural disasters are one thing, they are news events, but falsehoods about political and cultural issues have a different problem entirely.