Understanding and Filtering Crowdsourced News

by Benjamin Bodnar and Aditi Vira on April 20, 2011


The utility of social media to report breaking news is well documented, but verifying and filtering information remains key to understanding the underlying trends. Just consider these two examples:  In March 2010, the Egyptian stock market dropped by over 6 percent in two days upon false Twitter rumors suggesting that then-President Mubarak had died while undergoing gall bladder surgery. In the immediate aftermath of Japan’s 9.0 magnitude earthquake, ”Godzilla” became one of the day’s trending topics as social media users vilified a CNN anchor for making a joke.  But the CNN anchor never actually mentioned Godzilla during her reporting, leading one commentator to dub the episode an example of “Twittersteria.”

Can we really rely on crowdsourced news?

Our short answer: Yes, in context.

The Rendon Group’s Media and Social Media Summary aims to provide clients with a diverse and reliable view of a breaking story in real time. These summaries juxtapose traditional media, international media and social media to give clients context around trends within the media space.

Social media’s low barriers for entry make participation easy; yet as a result the medium can be, at its most pernicious, a vehicle for disinformation. The Rendon Group verifies content by researching and analyzing key communicators for quality assurance. In an environment where 0.05 percent of users reportedly provide 50 percent of the content consumed, identifying the sources and amplifiers of both information and misinformation that shape a conversation is key. Additionally, we gauge media sentiment to provide the client with a snapshot on how the issue at stake is being portrayed.

Anyone who has attempted to track Twitter streams, Facebook updates or blog posts can testify that social media can be an intimidating overload of seemingly random information. Media and Social Media Summaries separate background noise from actionable intelligence.

As Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey acknowledged: “Algorithms can’t solve everything. You use them to bubble up the best data and then let humans add a narrative to it.”

Check out our example summaries on Japan’s nuclear crisis and Egypt’s revolution. Next week, we will examine how different national media spaces portray the same events. Contact us for further information.

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