Social media have become part of modern news reporting, used by journalists to spread information and find sources, or as a news source by individuals. The quest for prominence and recognition on social media sites like Twitter can sometimes eclipse accuracy and lead to the spread of false information. As a way to study and react to this trend, we introduce TWITTERTRAILS, an interactive, web-based tool (twittertrails.com) that allows users to investigate the origin and propagation characteristics of a rumor and its refutation, if any, on Twitter. Visualizations of burst activity, propagation timeline, retweet and co-retweeted networks help its users trace the spread of a story. Within minutes TWITTERTRAILS will collect relevant tweets and automatically answer several important questions regarding a rumor: its originator, burst characteristics, propagators and main actors according to the audience. In addition, it will compute and report the rumor’s level of visibility and, as an example of the power of crowdsourcing, the audience’s skepticism towards it which correlates with the rumor’s credibility. We envision TWITTERTRAILS as valuable tool for individual use, but especially for amateur and professional journalists investigating recent and breaking stories. Further, its expanding collection of investigated rumors can be used to answer questions regarding the amount and success of misinformation on Twitter.
Finn, S., Metaxas, P.T., & Mustafaraj, E. (2014). Investigating Rumor Propagation with TwitterTrails. Computation and Journalism 2014.