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With concern over the validity of news increasing for most people, many Twitter users have started to question if the information they’re reading is accurate. Anyone is able to make an account and tweet information, whether it’s true or not, so it’s not uncommon for users to create fake news accounts with the goal of putting out misinformation. Luckily, however, there are some precautionary steps Twitter users can take to ensure the information they’re getting is accurate. These tips on how to use Twitter will let you get the most out of a site that can be a great way to stay up to date on current events.
Why Use Twitter at All?
Aside from the fact that Twitter can be hilarious and connect users to their favorite people and celebrities, Twitter is a great platform for instant news. With its ability to rapidly spread information, Twitter allows users access to information on news events as they happen. It also allows for multiple perspectives that aren’t always given a platform through the mainstream media. Since anyone can Tweet, anyone can be heard. This valuable concept allows for the proliferation of public opinions that would have otherwise gone uncovered. Twitter also successfully connects like-minded people, proving they’re not alone in their opinions.
Sorry not sorry… pic.twitter.com/qSbYVsHXVz
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) May 7, 2020
How Can It Be Unreliable?
The idea that anyone can tweet is a double-edged sword. While it’s great that anyone with a genuine opinion or factual story can be heard, Twitter also allows for misinformation to spread very easily. With no restrictions, fact-checking policies, or approvals needed for an informative tweet to appear valid, any opinion or perspective of an event – whether true or false – can be posted.
A perfect example are “burner” accounts. These accounts are used to anonymously troll, spy-on, or comment on any topic. They can reply to elected officials, professional athletes, and celebrities with no real repercussions, leading most of their content to be negatively driven. Their opinions, which are often exaggerations of events, are sometimes seen as reliable. Some burner accounts even go as far as impersonating reliable sources to make their misinformation come across as true.
However, misinformation doesn’t always come from fake accounts like these. It’s also very common for real, and even verified accounts, to put out fake news. The most common reason is the immediacy of most news stories on Twitter. Even professional journalists commonly break news on the site before it’s confirmed, sometimes failing to mention their uncertainties. This race-to-be-first often sacrifices accuracy and spreads misinformation.
How to Use Twitter Reliably
1. Look for Verification
Twitter “verifies” accounts of popular users, celebrities, government officials, businesses, and more. This tiny blue check next to their name helps show other users that it’s their real account and what they’re tweeting is actually their opinion. This is an important thing to look out for when searching the site for news. Verified news sources are generally more reliable than regular users without any sort of verification. Prominent journalists will typically have the blue check by their name, making the information they tweet more trustworthy than the average user. In addition, popular news channels’ accounts are also verified, so accounts that might look like a famous or reliable news source might actually be imitating those accounts to spread misinformation.
STATEMENT: Tonight, despite the GOP’s savage attempt to suppress votes and steal Wisconsin’s Supreme Court election, Judge Jill Karofsky prevailed. In an election that should never have taken place in person, it’s a victory for justice—and democracy. pic.twitter.com/MD0ENNJljR
— Ben Wikler (@benwikler) April 14, 2020
With that being said, having a blue checkmark doesn’t automatically guarantee a tweet is completely truthful. It just implies that it’s coming from the actual account of the respective news source or journalist covering the news.
2. Use Twitter’s News Threads
To fight back against the spread of false information on the app, Twitter added a news thread section to its interface. Under the “search” icon at the bottom of the screen, users can select news threads concerning multiple topics, including trending, news, sports, fun, and entertainment. They also pull the most relevant news for each user, depending on what they follow and interact with on their accounts, in the “for you” thread.
Each story will appear with its headline and a relevant picture, similar to the way articles appear on online newspapers. Once clicked on, the thread – multiple tweets from different sources following the same topic – will appear. Twitter does a really good job of piecing together relevant, mostly verified, accounts that share the same story from different perspectives. This allows users the ability to observe multiple angles to the same story.
3. Read the Mentions
Mentions, or comments underneath a tweet, can also be a valuable way of fact-checking a story. While many users use the mentions to lash out in anger or post funny memes, there are just as many users dropping knowledge that might support or oppose a tweet covering the news.
This relates to the bigger idea of always referencing multiple perspectives. There are times a well-known, verified news source tweets about an event, and the mentions reveal an error in the story. This process of gauging public opinion makes it easier to know when a story shouldn’t be trusted.
Ultimately, it’s up to the user to filter through the multiple perspectives the app provides to piece together their own idea of the truth. Luckily, Twitter does a good job of making sure every side of the story is heard.