A lady stands in front of an electronic display showing live information of flight positions according to predicted time and flight duration calculations at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Sunday, March 16, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia. Malaysian authorities Sunday were investigating the pilots of the missing jetliner after it was established that whoever flew off with the Boeing 777 had intimate knowledge of the cockpit and knew how to avoid detection when navigating around Asia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Why the press can’t help but speculate about the missing Malaysia Airlines flight

Did you hear?

A piece of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was spotted by the Vietnamese Navy. The plane made an emergency landing in Nanning, China. It may be in North Korea. Or taken over by Iranian terrorists. No, it just completely vanished.

If you want to know how much people are thinking and obsessing about a story, just count the rumors labeled as reporting, the baseless “expert” punditry, and the conspiracy theories it inspires. By that measure, the missing jet is occupying more of our collective consciousness than any other story in the world right now. (Take that, Putin.)

It’s a global story due to the fact that it connects so many countries thanks to the departure and destination locations, and all of the nationalities represented by passengers and its flight path. Read more

truth or lie

Researchers have 3 tips to help journalists debunk misinformation

Having the truth on your side is a necessary thing when trying to debunk misinformation.

But it’s far from enough.

The truth alone does not change minds, create belief. Convincing people of your argument, or correcting someone else’s lies, requires more than unearthing the truth and reciting the facts.

So what’s a journalist to do?

Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler continue to produce work aimed at identifying the best and most effective ways to combat political misinformation. (I also recently wrote about their research into whether politicians fear fact checkers.)

Nyhan, a professor at Dartmouth, and Reifler, a lecturer at the University of Exeter, today added a bit more to their body of debunking work. They published a research paper, “Which Corrections Work,” with the New America Foundation that contains three specific pieces of advice for how journalists can best correct misinformation. Read more


5 projects take different approaches to promote fact-checking, fight misinformation

This week a different kind of hack day took place at the MIT Media Lab.

These gatherings are usually filled with software developers and other technical folks. Wednesday’s hack day had its share of geeks, but there were also social scientists, journalists, NGO workers and students from Harvard’s Kennedy School, among others.

It was an interdisciplinary mix, and a nice complement to the Truthiness in Digital Media symposium held at Harvard the day before. (See this post from me about an interesting piece of data shared in one of the presentations.)

On Tuesday we discussed problems and outlined possible solutions. Wednesday’s goal was to sketch out ideas that, even on a small scale, could attack some of the challenges.

The result was a variety of suggested projects that looked at misinformation in digital media. Read more

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Visualized: Incorrect information travels farther, faster on Twitter than corrections

Many times on Twitter I’ve witnessed what I call The Law of Incorrect Tweets:

Initial, inaccurate information will be retweeted more than any subsequent correction.

The goal should be to make the correction as viral as the mistake. But that’s a challenge, and Tuesday at Harvard’s Truthiness in Digital Media conference, I saw (for the first time) what it looks like when we fail.

The presentation by Gilad Lotan, the vice president of research and development for SocialFlow, included a chart that compared the Twitter traffic of an incorrect report to the traffic for the ensuing correction. It’s the Law of Incorrect Tweets visualized:

The data for that chart comes from one of three case studies he shared in this blog post. It focused on an incorrect tweet by NBC New York in November that said the NYPD had ordered its helicopter to move away from the site of the Occupy Wall Street protests:

Read more