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Ethan Zuckerman on hashtags, breaking news and disinformation

April 20th, 2009Posted by in Social media and blogging

There have been discussions previously on accuracy vs speed when it comes to breaking news on social media platforms such as Twitter (see the debate around the reporting of the Mumbai terror attacks), but Ethan Zuckerman’s recent blog post raised some interesting points relating to the recent Moldova protests.

The #pman tag used to report the protests was also used to spread disinformation, says Zuckerman, who references Jon Pincus’ post on the hashtag as an open channel.

“[I]n the same way that the #skittles tag, promoted by the company as a form of viral marketing ended up being used for NSFW posts, it’s hardly surprising that #pman would attrack trolls and disinformation,” writes Zuckerman.

“On the other hand, participatory tools may be particularly effective at debunking this form of disinformation.”

A commenter on Zuckerman’s blog tested this out during the protests by posting fake, hashtagged updates, and seeing if these were seized upon by the media. The ‘troll/experiment’ was quickly rumbled however.

Zuckerman says he will be looking into whether Romanian speakers will challenge the information spread in English-language updates, as well as whether good or bad nuggets of information spread more quickly.

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