For some members of the public, searching for news to verify unfolding events is a key means to gaining a greater understanding of a situation. If that information is to be shared with others, it is worth taking the time to verify information you receive before sharing it in order to avoid the spread of unverified information. This is particularly relevant as others (e.g., the news media) may re-share unverified information prior to completing any fact checking exercises.
- Before sharing or commenting on information from others, use multiple sources to verify the information.
- Evaluate the source of the information.
- Corroborate the information by gathering new information and evidence through additional research.
- Use various online applications to help verify information you receive:
- Verify information through crowdsourced platforms that collect, verify, visualize data about emergencies as Ushadidi and UbAlert.
- Verify information spreading on social networks through applications web-based tools as Storyful and Twitcident.
- Check the time and location stamps of content or authenticate images (e.g., Conduct a reverse image search to determine if the picture has been posted online in the past) through tools as Google Images, Tineye and Izitru.
- Add sources to your information and use those that can give the reader the confirmation of information:
- Include pictures and video clips to your text.
- If you share or retweet information from others, verify the original source.
- Emphasise the factual information, so people can make their own choices.
- If you are not sure of your information: report that the information you are spreading is unverified or not validated.
- If you do not trust your information, do not share it.
- If your information proves to be incorrect, set this right by notifying your followers.
- Connect your information to credible hashtags that are already used.
Be aware that when you are reporting and/ or sharing information there are some ethical, legal and security aspects to take into consideration, regarding e.g. the privacy and safety of yourself and others. Upholding professional journalistic standards will address some of those.
Twitter helped spread some rumours at great speed during the 2011 UK riots; e.g. a tiger let loose from the London Zoo and the London eye being burned down (both including pictures). The rumour that rioters were breaking into McDonalds and began cooking their own food was even captured by the Daily Mail, headlining: "Youths storm McDonald's and start cooking their own food". This coverage by mainstream media greatly enhanced the rumour; the link to this story was the most often shared link on Twitter. The story however proved to be false, emphasizing the risks of sharing unverified information.
Analysis of Twitter use during the UK riots did however also prove Twitter to be equally powerful in dispelling such rumours.