The Guardian looked back at some of the rumors that spread through Twitter during August’s riots in the U.K. and created a data visualization to show how they spread and were knocked down. “The rise and fall of rumours on Twitter is a striking display of social forces in action,” write Alastair Dant and Jonathan Richards in a post explaining how they researched and created one of their most advanced data visualizations.
The Guardian and a team of researchers started with 2.6 million tweets that contained a hashtag related to the riots and, with the help of journalists who covered the riots, focused on seven key rumors. (Just one of them was later confirmed.) Their conclusion:
Despite helping rumours spread at great speed, Twitter has an equal and opposite power to dispel them – often in the space of two or three hours, particularly if the counter-evidence is strong.
The Guardian notes that this misinformation didn’t spread through social media alone. For instance, a rumor that rioters had broken into a McDonald’s and started cooking food was aided by a Daily Mail story, “which was the most widely shared link among tweets which spread the rumour.” || Related: How riot news spread on Twitter (Guardian) | 200 most influential Twitter users during the riots (Guardian) | Social media editor role expands to include fighting misinformation during breaking news (Poynter.org)