Tag Archives: rumour

A quick note to Louise Mensch: sunlight is the best disinfectant

Plenty of others have given their own opinion on MP Louise Mensch’s suggestion that authorities should be able to shut down social media during civil unrest, so I just want to add a couple of experiences:

Here’s the first: when rumours spread about children being kidnapped in supermarket toilets, they first spread by text message (not social media). When they spread via the semi-public Facebook, it was easier for others to raise questions or debunk them. On Twitter – a much more public medium – it seems even harder for rumour to get a foothold.

I’ve written before about similar rumours and how journalists can and do play a role in debunking them.

I’ve also written about the potential for automated debunking. The less ‘social’ a medium, the harder it is to create these automated services, and the harder it is to distribute facts.

Finally, I’ve written about how journalists can use the qualities of social media itself to more easily separate rumour from fact.

Gossip and rumour don’t need social media to spread. Removing social media – in my experience (and that of the police, apparently) – just makes it harder to spot, and debunk.

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What’s your problem with the internet? A crib sheet for news exec speeches

When media executives (and the occasional columnist on a deadline) talk about ‘the problem with the web’ they often revert to a series of recurring themes. In doing so they draw on a range of discourses that betray assumptions, institutional positions and ideological leanings. I thought I’d put together a list of some common memes of hatred directed towards the internet at various points by publishers and journalists, along with some critical context.

If you can think of any other common complaints, or responses to the ones below, post them in the comments and I’ll add them in. I’ll also update this blog post whenever I come across new evidence on any of the topics.

Meanwhile, here’s a table of contents for easy access:

  1. Undemocratic and unrepresentative (The ‘Twitterati’)
  2. ‘The death of common culture’
  3. The ‘echo chamber’/death of serendipity (homophily)
  4. ‘Google are parasites’
  5. ‘Bloggers are parasites’
  6. ‘You don’t know who you’re dealing with’
  7. Rumour and hearsay ‘magically become gospel’
  8. Triviality
  9. ‘Unregulated’ lack of accountability
  10. Cult of the amateur

Undemocratic and unrepresentative (the ‘Twitterati’)

The presumption here is that the media as a whole is more representative and democratic than users of the web. You know, geeks. The ‘Twitterati’ (a fantastic ideologically-loaded neologism that conjures up images of unelected elites). A variant of this is the position that sees any online-based protest as ‘organised’ and therefore illegitimate. Continue reading