The Crowd at HICSS 2013 Series – #4



One of the challenges in using social media technologies, such as Twitter, for disaster response is that information that can help save lives is buried under the sea of other information and misinformation. This was the case in the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. For example, information on Twitter helped the rescuing of children and teachers who were stranded at a school building. However, finding this information was extremely hard because a lot of unverified tweets spread during disaster response, even after people pointed out that the unverified tweets were false rumors in their criticism tweets.

Motivated by these observations, Tanaka, Sakamoto, and Matsuka examined if the critical thinking of crowds could help reduce the spread of misinformation. Using false tweets and criticism tweets related to the Great East Japan Earthquake, they conducted an experiment, in which half of the students in Japanese universities saw criticism tweets before seeing the false tweets, and the other half did not. They found that exposing subjects to criticism tweets increased the decision not to share the false tweets about 1.5 times, from 32% to 49%. When subjects decided to share the false tweets even after seeing the criticism tweets, they perceived the false tweets as more accurate, more important, and more anxiety-provoking than when they decided not to share the false tweets after seeing the criticism tweets. Their work, which won the best paper award in the Collaboration Systems and Technologies track, demonstrated that exposing people to criticism tweets could change their perceptions of and significantly reduce the decision to spread the associated false tweets.
Given these findings, the group is examining how to promote the credibility evaluation by crowds to reduce the spread of misinformation and extract useful information on social media during disasters, and if it is possible to change how crowds perceive and feel about disaster-related information on social media to direct their sharing decision. Changing the perspective of crowds was the focus of another HICSS 2013 paper, which received a best paper nomination. By following this link you can find more about their research on improving social media for disaster response.

About the author

John Prpić

PhD student at the Beedie School of Business,
Simon Fraser University

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