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Lies, Damn Lies and
Viral Content
@CraigSilverman
Emergent.info
–Carl Drott
“She volunteered to defend Kobani against the
Islamic State and risk her life. It’s an affront to
her that som...
Rumors emerge
in situations of
uncertainty, fear,
or lack of
information.
Lake Monster Attack designed by Luis Prado from ...
“[W]e are fundamentally social beings and
we possess an irrepressible instinct to
make sense of the world. Put these ideas...
RICHARD QUEST, CNN: . . . So, many
questions, none of which, frankly, we’re
going to be able to answer for you tonight.
Bu...
The Truth About Rumor
• Rumors are inevitable, spread rapidly in a connected
world.
• They are prevalent in breaking news ...
What We Found
+1,600 news articles about more
than 100 online rumors that
circulated in the online press
between August and December of
...
1. Point, then Retreat
Mindless
Propagation
Silent
Restraint
2. Following On
3.Fake/False Stuff Spreads
4. Declarative/Innuendo Headlines
5. Headline/Body
Dissonance
• 1,660 articles
• 213 contained headline/body text dissonance
• Just under 13 percent of all ...
True/Observing
True/Observing
True/Observing
the rumors we tracked saw at least one media report use the true
True/False
• “WATCH: Bird Launches Airstrike on Putin’s
Shoulder (UPDATED)” (Time magazine)
• “Woman Gets Third Boob to Ap...
Hedging Words
st websites claim Israeli-Canadian woman kidnapped by IS: re
— The Globe And Mail
Thank goodness for
pumpkin spice condoms
rex will neither confirm or deny the pumpkin spice condom.”— Qu
Debunking Efforts
Tips For Newsrooms
Handling rumors/claims:
• Understand your impact.
• Set a standard for pointing/propagating.
• Evaluate...
Thank you! Questions?
6.Updates/Follow Ups
Claim: ISIS captured a U.S. airdrop of
weapons intended for Kurdish fighters
Claim: Hewlett-Packard will split
itself into two separate companies
We Need Better BS
Detectors/Debunkers
–Brendan Nyhan, New York Times
“The problem, however, is that the spread of
rumors, misinformation and unverified claims
c...
Key Players
Context: Networks
Source: Statistica, http://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of...
Context: Abundance
• 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube ever
minute.
• More than 500 million tweets sent per day.
• Mo...
Context: Smartphones
1. Official Sources of Propaganda
2. Hoaxsters
Claim: The Batmobile was stolen
4. Unintentional Propagators
Why Debunking is
Difficult
–Brendan Nyhan
“….we found that parents with mixed or negative
feelings toward vaccines actually became less
likely to say...
– Cordelia Fine, the author of A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and
Deceives, in The New York Times.
“[W]e human...
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation
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How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation

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This is a summary of some of the research contained in my Tow Center report, which can be downloaded here: http://towcenter.org/research/lies-damn-lies-and-viral-content/ It examines how news sites cover rumors and unverified claims, and examines best practices for debunking misinformation.

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How News Websites Spread (and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation

  1. 1. Lies, Damn Lies and Viral Content @CraigSilverman Emergent.info
  2. 2. –Carl Drott “She volunteered to defend Kobani against the Islamic State and risk her life. It’s an affront to her that some people think that’s not enough, but that more fantastic details have to be invented, and it also devalues the very many completely true and even more fantastic stories coming out of Kobani. Unfortunately, there’s not an iconic picture for every fantastic story, and vice versa.”
  3. 3. Rumors emerge in situations of uncertainty, fear, or lack of information. Lake Monster Attack designed by Luis Prado from the Noun Project
  4. 4. “[W]e are fundamentally social beings and we possess an irrepressible instinct to make sense of the world. Put these ideas together and we get shared sensemaking: We make sense of life together. Rumor is perhaps the quintessential shared sensemaking activity.” — Nicholas DiFonzo, author of “The Watercooler Effect: A Psychologist Explores the Extraordinary Power of Rumors.”
  5. 5. RICHARD QUEST, CNN: . . . So, many questions, none of which, frankly, we’re going to be able to answer for you tonight. But many questions are raised by this new development. For instance, not least, how can a plane go like this and no one notices it’s off flight plan? The former director general of IATA says he finds it incredible that fighter jets were not scrambled as soon as the aircraft went off course. I asked Giovanni Bisignani for his gut feeling about what happened to the plane.
  6. 6. The Truth About Rumor • Rumors are inevitable, spread rapidly in a connected world. • They are prevalent in breaking news and other fluid, confusing or anxiety-inducing situations. • Repetition has an effect on belief. • People are more likely to believe a rumor if it aligns with their existing beliefs/knowledge. • It matters how journalists treat rumors and claims because we can give them credibility and oxygen.
  7. 7. What We Found
  8. 8. +1,600 news articles about more than 100 online rumors that circulated in the online press between August and December of 2014.
  9. 9. 1. Point, then Retreat
  10. 10. Mindless Propagation Silent Restraint
  11. 11. 2. Following On
  12. 12. 3.Fake/False Stuff Spreads
  13. 13. 4. Declarative/Innuendo Headlines
  14. 14. 5. Headline/Body Dissonance • 1,660 articles • 213 contained headline/body text dissonance • Just under 13 percent of all articles
  15. 15. True/Observing
  16. 16. True/Observing
  17. 17. True/Observing the rumors we tracked saw at least one media report use the true
  18. 18. True/False • “WATCH: Bird Launches Airstrike on Putin’s Shoulder (UPDATED)” (Time magazine) • “Woman Gets Third Boob to Appear Unattractive to Men [Updated]” (New York magazine) • “Weather Reporter Caught Writing His Name In The Snow Was NOT Ready To Go On Camera (UPDATED)” (The Huffington Post)
  19. 19. Hedging Words
  20. 20. st websites claim Israeli-Canadian woman kidnapped by IS: re — The Globe And Mail
  21. 21. Thank goodness for pumpkin spice condoms
  22. 22. rex will neither confirm or deny the pumpkin spice condom.”— Qu
  23. 23. Debunking Efforts
  24. 24. Tips For Newsrooms Handling rumors/claims: • Understand your impact. • Set a standard for pointing/propagating. • Evaluate before your propagate. • Hedge consistently. Debunking: • Debunk the idea, not the person. • Tell a story. • Choose the right sources. • Be positive.
  25. 25. Thank you! Questions?
  26. 26. 6.Updates/Follow Ups
  27. 27. Claim: ISIS captured a U.S. airdrop of weapons intended for Kurdish fighters
  28. 28. Claim: Hewlett-Packard will split itself into two separate companies
  29. 29. We Need Better BS Detectors/Debunkers
  30. 30. –Brendan Nyhan, New York Times “The problem, however, is that the spread of rumors, misinformation and unverified claims can overwhelm any effort to set the record straight”
  31. 31. Key Players
  32. 32. Context: Networks Source: Statistica, http://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/
  33. 33. Context: Abundance • 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube ever minute. • More than 500 million tweets sent per day. • More than 55 million Instagram photos uploaded per day.
  34. 34. Context: Smartphones
  35. 35. 1. Official Sources of Propaganda
  36. 36. 2. Hoaxsters
  37. 37. Claim: The Batmobile was stolen
  38. 38. 4. Unintentional Propagators
  39. 39. Why Debunking is Difficult
  40. 40. –Brendan Nyhan “….we found that parents with mixed or negative feelings toward vaccines actually became less likely to say they would vaccinate a future child after receiving information debunking the myth that vaccines cause autism.”
  41. 41. – Cordelia Fine, the author of A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives, in The New York Times. “[W]e humans quickly develop an irrational loyalty to our beliefs, and work hard to find evidence that supports those opinions and to discredit, discount or avoid information that does not.”

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