While Twitter provides an unprecedented opportunity to learn about breaking news and current events as they happen, it often produces skepticism among users as not all the information is accurate but also hoaxes are sometimes spread. While avoiding the diffusion of hoaxes is a major concern during fast-paced events such as natural disasters, the study of how users trust and verify information from tweets in these contexts has received little attention so far. We survey users on credibility perceptions regarding witness pictures posted on Twitter related to Hurricane Sandy. By examining credibility perceptions on features suggested for information verification in the field of epistemology, we evaluate their accuracy in determining whether pictures were real or fake compared to professional evaluations performed by experts. Our study unveils insight about tweet presentation, as well as features that users should look at when assessing the veracity of tweets in the context of fast-paced events. Some of our main findings include that while author details not readily available on Twitter feeds should be emphasized in order to facilitate verification of tweets, showing multiple tweets corroborating a fact misleads users to trusting what actually is a hoax. We contrast some of the behavioral patterns found on tweets with literature in psychology research.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
We filter by language of the source tweet, because that is the tweet we show during the surveys
Retweets were identified as tweets containing the field “retweeted_status” pointing to the original tweet.
with the exception that corroboration is not always available
Allport F, Lepkin M (1945) Wartime rumors of waste and special privilege: why some people believe them. J Abnormal Soc Psychol 40(1):3
Castillo C, Mendoza M, Poblete B (2011) Information credibility on twitter. In: Proceedings of the 20th international conference on World wide web, pp 675–684
Cotter E (2008) Influence of emotional content and perceived relevance on spread of urban legends: a pilot study 1, 2. Psychol Rep 102(2):623–629
Eagly A, Chaiken S (1993) The psychology of attitudes. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers, Orlando, FL, USA
Eysenbach G, Köhler C (2002) How do consumers search for and appraise health information on the world wide web? Qualitative study using focus groups, usability tests, and in-depth interviews. BMJ 324(7337):573–577
Fallis D (2004) On verifying the accuracy of information: philosophical perspectives. Libr Trends 52(3):463–487
Fallis D (2008) Toward an epistemology of Wikipedia. J Am Soc Inf Sci Technol 59(10):1662–1674
Flanagin A, Metzger M (2000) Perceptions of internet information credibility. J Mass Commun Quart 77(3):515–540
Fogg B, Soohoo C, Danielson D, Marable L, Stanford J, Tauber E (2003) How do users evaluate the credibility of web sites? A study with over 2,500 participants. In: Proceedings of designing for user experiences, pp 1–15
Goldman A (1999) Knowledge in a social world. Clarendon Press, Oxford
Goldman AI (1986) Epistemology and cognition. Harvard University Press, Harvard
Gupta M, Zhao P, Han J (2012) Evaluating event credibility on twitter. In: Proceedings of SDM 2012
Hargittai E, Fullerton L, Menchen-Trevino E, Thomas K (2010) Trust online: young adults evaluation of web content. Int J Commun 4(1):468–494
Hasher L, Goldstein D, Toppino T (1977) Frequency and the conference of referential validity. J Verbal Learn Verbal Behav 16(1):107–112
Hermida A (2012) Tweets and truth: journalism as a discipline of collaborative verification. J Pract 6(5–6):659–668
Hu M, Liu S, Wei F, Wu Y, Stasko J, Ma KL (2012) Breaking news on twitter. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI ’12. ACM, New York, pp 2751–2754
Huang H, Zubiaga A, Ji H, Deng H, Wang D, Le HK, Abdelzaher TF, Han J, Leung A, Hancock J et al (2012) Tweet ranking based on heterogeneous networks. In: COLING, pp 1239–1256
Hume D (2001) An enquiry concerning human understanding, vol 3. Oxford University Press, USA
Johnson T, Kaye B (2004) Wag the blog: how reliance on traditional media and the internet influence credibility perceptions of weblogs among blog users. J Mass Commun Quart 81(3):622–642
Kang B, O’Donovan J, Höllerer T (2012) Modeling topic specific credibility on twitter. In: Proceedings of the 2012 ACM international conference on intelligent user interfaces, pp 179–188
Koohang A, Weiss E (2003) Misinformation: toward creating a prevention framework. Inf Sci
Krippendorff K (2012) Content analysis: an introduction to its methodology. Beverly Hills, Sage
Kwak H, Lee C, Park H, Moon S (2010) What is twitter, a social network or a news media? In: Proceedings of the 19th international conference on World wide web, pp 591–600
Landis JR, Koch GG (1977) The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics 33(1):159–174
Lazar J, Meiselwitz G, Feng J (2007) Understanding web credibility: a synthesis of the research literature. Found Trends Hum-Comput Interact 1(2):139–202
Lewandowsky S, Ecker U, Seifert C, Schwarz N, Cook J (2012) Misinformation and its correction: continued influence and successful debiasing. Psychol Sci Public Interest 13(3):106–131
Lipton P (1998) The epistemology of testimony. Stud Hist Philos Sci Part A 29(1):1–32
Matheson D (2004) Weblogs and the epistemology of the news: some trends in online journalism. New Media Soc 6(4):443–468
Morris M, Counts S, Roseway A, Hoff A, Schwarz J (2012) Tweeting is believing? Understanding microblog credibility perceptions. In: Proceedings of CSCW 2012, pp 441–450
ODonovan J, Kang B, Meyer G, Hollerer T, Adalii S (2012) Credibility in context: an analysis of feature distributions in twitter. In: SocialCom/PASSAT 2012, pp 293–301
OBrien J, Farid H (2012) Exposing photo manipulation with inconsistent reflections. ACM Trans Gr 31(1):4
Petty R, Cacioppo J (1986) The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. Adv Exp Soc Psychol 19(1):123–205
Piaget J, Wells P (1972) Psychology and epistemology: towards a theory of knowledge. Penguin Harmondsworth
Piper P (2000) Better read that again: web hoaxes and misinformation. Searcher 8(8):40–49
Schaal M, ODonovan J, Smyth B (2012) An analysis of topical proximity in the twitter social graph. In: Aberer K, Flache A, Jager W, Liu L, Tang J, Guret C (eds) Social informatics, lecture notes in computer science, vol 7710. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg, pp 232–245
Silverman C, Buttry S, Wardle C, Barot T, Browne M, Ingram M, Meier P, Knight S, Tsubaki R (2014) Verification handbook. European Journalism Centre. Available at: http://verificationhandbook.com/
Stemler S (2001) An overview of content analysis. Pract Assess Res Eval 7(17):137–146
Suzuki Y, Nadamoto A (2011) Credibility assessment using Wikipedia for messages on social network services. In: Dependable, autonomic and secure computing (DASC), 2011 IEEE Ninth International Conference on, pp 887–894
Wang D, Abdelzaher T, Ahmadi H, Pasternack J, Roth D, Gupta M, Han J, Fatemieh O, Le H, Aggarwal CC (2011) On bayesian interpretation of fact-finding in information networks. In: Information fusion (FUSION), pp 1–8
Yang J, Counts S, Morris M, Hoff A (2013) Microblog credibility perceptions: comparing the united states and china. In: Proceedings of CHI 2013, pp 575–586
Zubiaga A, Ji H, Knight K (2013) Curating and contextualizing twitter stories to assist with social newsgathering. In: Proceedings of IUI 2013, pp 213–224
We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for providing us with constructive comments and suggestions. This work was supported by the US Army Research Laboratory under Cooperative Agreement No. W911NF-09-2-0053 (NS-CTA), US NSF CAREER Award under Grant IIS-0953149, US DARPA Award No. FA8750-13-2-0041 in the “Deep Exploration and Filtering of Text” (DEFT) Program and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Start-up fund for Heng Ji. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the social policies, either expressed or implied, of the US Government. The US Government is authorized to reproduce and distribute reprints for Government purposes notwithstanding any copyright notation here on.
This article is part of the Topical Collection on Uncovering Deception in Social Media.
About this article
Cite this article
Zubiaga, A., Ji, H. Tweet, but verify: epistemic study of information verification on Twitter. Soc. Netw. Anal. Min. 4, 163 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13278-014-0163-y
- Real Picture
- Twitter User
- Information Credibility
- Information Verification
- Author Detail