Is Twitter the fastest way to spread misinformation?

Last night, while going through news about Secretary Robredo, and the two pilots with him who were still missing from the plane crash all sort of information kept flying in and out. It was the same thing a few weeks ago when rains pounded Metro Manila and sunk it. It was the same thing when Dolphy passed away. We had well meaning people tweeting information that may or many not be true. It is the kind of tweet that would be raw, and unfiltered. Perfect for news junkies, not so perfect if you are a casual observer and just wanted to find out about an event. And now, more than ever, Twitter is the perfect medium to get rapid information online as an event happens.

@skushno on twitter wrote:

It got me thinking. I don’t disagree with the statement.

Don’t get me wrong, I love twitter. It is my go to place. It the one network that I stay on top of, precisely because of its raw, and often unfiltered nature. It is the nerve center of the Internet!

The thing about Twitter and misinformation or information— is that it would really depend on who you follow. You really do have to weigh what people tweet, even from people you do know. “Is this person close to the ground? How knowledgeable is this person about the subject? How well-placed is the source of the information? How credible is this source?” And you have to ask these questions in a span of seconds.

A lot of people seem to think that Social Media is a replacement for journalism. It isn’t. That’s not what social media is all about. Not that what passes for journalism is better. You know, it is all sad and sickening, a lot of times. Tabloid like stories that come in every so often for that elusive dream of ratings?

The truth is, there is a reason for the profession of journalism to exist in this day and age. There is in fact, an even more compelling reason in an age where data is rapid, and we need a filter, and gatekeepers. We need someone to verify the facts. That’s journalism is about, correct? People who report the facts about an event. The who, the what, the where, the when, and the how. They make sure that the news is verifiable and that it is true.

The fact of the matter, this social media? It lends perfectly to the nature of journalism. Social media the tool— whether it is a blog, a podcast, a social network, or as simple as a map, lends quite well to the profession of journalism. The one to many property of twitter is excellent for broadcasting information. The same goes for youtube, and blogs. And the same goes for podcasting. Even researching for a story helps. These social media tools can help a journalist do their job, and do it even better.

Which leads us to a point. That just because this is, as Clay Shirky pointed out in a TED Talk, “Not to put too fine a point on it, the moment we’re living through — the moment our historical generation is living through — is the largest increase in expressive capability in human history.”

It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t restrain ourselves:

Just because we can publish anything— even a comment on a blog— doesn’t mean we should.

@womencentral replied to a tweet and said:

Sometimes, restraint is a powerful thing, don’t you think?

Joe America asked, in a comment to a post I wrote on “What the Internet is“, asked, “I wonder if the internet is powerful enough to hold unethical Senators up for censure, or if Sotto will be allowed by the good old boys to slip free of any result for one of the most classic abuses of all times. You know, like Estrada, Enrile, Ms. Marcos and all the other well connected crooks who seem to get to live by a different set of rules than the rest of us.”

There are limits to social media. In 2010, the Aquino Campaign learned a lot about the power of social media. It does not win an election. At least not yet in the Philippines. Manolo Quezon described it as an “air war.” But you don’t take enemy territory by carpet bombing it. Anyone who has played Civilization knows this. You don’t even win by sending out artillery alone. You need foot soldiers and infantry, and tanks to roll in, and take land.

So it is the same with Social Media. So it is the same with Twitter and Facebook. It is great for getting information out. To win, you need troops on the ground. Want to protest? Well, there should be someone on the ground who does the paper work. There is someone on the ground that files the necessary paperwork with whomever. If it is a law that needs to be questioned for example, then you need to bring it to the Courts and file. If it is about rescue work, or relief work, getting information out is important, but we shouldn’t stop there. We need people to pack the goods, and to deliver them. Those are the ground troops. They’re needed! If it is about reporting an event, well there has to be someone on the ground to actually be reporting just as mainstream does. Just because it is on the Internet, doesn’t mean no one does the legwork.

Social Media is a great tool for journalism. It is a great communications tool for everyone else— to raise the level of discourse, and to assemble together. Tweeting a hashtag is just a first step in a long series of things to get anything done. Social Media isn’t a magic bullet, but it is one powerful one. So is twitter the fastest way to spread misinformation? In the wrong hands it is, just as a steak knife or a car in the wrong hands is. It is such a cliche, but there is something to that axiom about “great power, and great responsibility,” and sometimes 140 characters is all you need to say.

Image credit: Twitter.

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • MarianoRenatoPacifico

    Twitter is a mirage … an illussion … confusing to navigate … more so of its limited 160 letters … even my link is not enough to Tweet .

  • MarianoRenatoPacifico

    According to New York Times, Twitter has a fatality rate of 80%. Meaning, those that joined Twitter, 80% of them never bothered to post update of their account. 20% of them are just linked up update. Meaning, what they post on social media is linked to twitter. TWITTER IS A BORE.

  • UPnnGrd

    To rely only on Twitter, though, is to… well… prevent information (or at least question) from being raised.

    Like here are words from Amando Doronilla — too many words for Twieet-tweet-tweet:

    But according to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, the President will appoint one who can carry out the judicial reform that began with the ouster of Corona.

    “He will be looking for a prospective Chief Justice, who has integrity, competence, political will and commitment to pursue and put into effect these reforms,” Abad said, adding judicial reform is among the key pillars of the President’s “reform agenda.”

    He continued: “The President did not support the impeachment and subsequent conviction of the former Chief Justice and invest political capital in the process only to end up with a Chief Justice who is unable to follow through effectively, and in a sustained way.”

    This is a job-specific check list that Carpio might find hard to follow. It reveals that the President wants the next Chief Justice to be a puppet.

  • UPnnGrd

    But…. but to remember…. the Inquirer and Malaya pass misinformation, too… and you don’t even know if the act is well-intented or not. And so it is with journalism, so it is with Twittering…. despite Lacierda saying that gobyerno is A-okay because Noynoy administration disseminates typhoon and flood alerts via Twitter.

  • I aspire to use words with more than 140 characters in them, you know, to keep the readers blinking, so tweeting imposes limitations that I find are impractical. I agree with your military example, that social media are only one part of the entire array of battlefield implements. Still, it is good that the Philippines is arming up with the most sophisticated and biting of instrumentation. Certainly, Senator Soto is feeling slapped in the face or kicked in the butt, or, hopefully, both.

    • UPnnGrd

      hey…. JoeAm…. (*** side-topic ***) Twitter may be the final push needed to get BO re-elected. Latest insight is that that special group —-> so-mad-at-politicians-they-will-not-vote may be the key to tipping the popular vote percentages. And survey of the diisaffected// those who think all-politicians-ar-crooks is tthis. 55% of this group feel positive towards Obama, 25% Romney (and 20%-are-still-thinking).

      Tweet away…. just encourage USA eligible-voters to vote. Tweet goes the distance halfway around the world and the tweet-tweet can silence that Ryan-dude,. (Isn’t that a scary thought? Ryan just a heartbeat away from being persi-dente?)