Thursday, October 2, 2014

The weekly read

Why rumors outrace the truth online
The New York Times
Sept. 29, 2014

It's a public information officer's worst nightmare. You are working the scene of a small incident that doesn't seem too terribly important when your phone starts ringing incessantly, with reporters barraging you with questions that seem to be coming totally out of left field. What gives?

Illustration originally appeared with the New York Times article
This article, written by Dartmouth Professor Brendan Nyhan, offers an interesting look at just how quickly rumors can spread in social media, and how the retractions/corrections can never catch up with the initial spread of the rumors themselves. He offers a case study about the recent online rumor about a woman who claimed to have had a special prosthetic surgically implanted to enhance her appearance, and how quickly that rumor about that spread online. Using online analtyics tools, Nyhan illustrates how the initial report circulated three times as widely as the retraction.

A fascinating read about just how quickly news can spread online, and why it's important for public information officers to stay on top of emerging social media trends.

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida

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