About Time: A system that could automatically identify whether a rumour on Twitter originates comes from a reliable source

Just 6 months ago, The Guardian claimed Twitter is surpassing other social media for breaking news traffic. It also went on to describe how they use Twitter to give a story momentum before other news channels pick it up. I would therefore argue that Twitter is now one of the primary news sources of our time. However, if we assume this is in fact the case, it is slightly alarming how no one is really responsible for verifying such sharing of information, in the Online name of ‘freedom of speech’. Sure we’ve seen some trolls get their comeuppance, for menacing messages,  but if for example, we saw The Guardian post any old thing they like on Twitter without checking their sources first, and say that terrible rumour was to gain momentum – would we really turn a blind eye?

A great example of how malicious news spreads quickly via social mediums is the recent viral story, that the poor guy responsible for the Sochi Olympic ring mishap was found dead the morning after the disaster.

A rather embarrassing mistake, but surely even Putin wouldn't have ordered the man killed?

A rather embarrassing mistake, but surely even Putin wouldn’t have ordered the man killed?

It was at least 12 hours before this fact declared a mistruth – but the damage was already done.

However, there may be an answer in sight. University researchers in Europe are working on a system that could quash false rumours spreading on social media by identifying whether the information is accurate . But I ask you – is this enough? Should those spreading unverified information on Twitter – whether in a professional or personal sense be expected to verify their sources before simple passing on the Chinese whisper? The current News of the World phone hacking trial has demonstrated the general public are not prepared to be exploited by mainstream media. But if we sit by and let everyone else do the same thing without any regulation – are we not just idle hypocrites?

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