Read Before Tweeting: Lessons from the Bakerloo Line "Colllapse"
Initially there were fears that people might be hurt or worse, so the news spread very quickly through Twitter. But even after the original source had tweeted a correction just 46 minutes later many people were still retweeting and forwarding the news several hours later. Old, inaccurate and out-of-date information often spreads in this way because it takes time for news to filter through a chain of people, so some Twitter users are seeing a retweet, a modified tweet or a paraphrase of the content long after the original tweet. They perhaps don't realize that the news is by Twitter standards very old and retweet or share it without thinking.
In traditional face-to-face conversation and in Internet forums etiquette books always advise you to listen before you speak, and for good reason. By listening before you open your mouth you can understand better what everyone is talking about and avoid looking foolish when you make an inappropriate comment or repeat something that has just been said.
Twitter users would be well advised to do the same thing when they see something labelled "breaking news". Perhaps the news is no longer breaking and there are significant updates or, as in the Bakerloo case, the report turns out to be false. A good practice would be to first do a twitter search either for a key word in the story -- "bakerloo" in this case -- or whatever hashtag has been used. This way you can see the latest comments on the story. Another useful technique is to go back to the original source by clicking on their Twittername and see if they have posted an update, a confirmation or a clarificatiol. Finally, news organizations responsible for mishaps like this should perhaps make greater efforts to slow down the retweets and shares by more actively spreading corrections.
Watching a search stream for "bakerloo" tweets this morning I also realized that it could be useful to have a Twitter client that can automate or at least mechanize the process, showing the latest on a given topic. Has someone already done this? Are there some artificial intelligence researchers who are working on the problem? If you know of any tools remotely like this let me know -- through @andrewhennigan -- because I would like to test them.
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