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Summary:

Is picking Twitter accounts to follow the same as picking which cable television host to trust? Journalists who’ve reported from the Middle East and relied on Twitter to receive their news say maybe.

Andy Carvin Ayman Mohyeldin CNN Twitter SXSW crowdsourced news

As Nate Silver discussed earlier today at SXSW in Austin on Sunday, the polarization of cable news and politics means that if you’re a serious Rachel Maddow fan, there’s only a tiny chance that you also vote Republican, and the same is true of Sean Hannity listeners and chances they’ll go for Democrats.

Nate Silver polarization politics news crowdsourced Twitter verifciation

But as we change where we get our news and turn to places like Twitter for information and verification of facts, it’s important to ask how that polarization will translate to social media – if it will at all. Several journalists discussing the future of news dissemination (something we’ll also be discussing at paidContent Live in April) tied these issues to those of crowdsourced news, particularly in the Middle East, when the tensions between accuracy and access are most apparent.

NBC correspondant Ayman Mohyeldin made an interesting argument about verification, arguing that people should be free to select the accounts they want to follow and personally decide whether to trust that information or not, just as they tune into particular cable shows in the United States and apply their own sense of skepticism to Maddow and Hannity.

“You ultimately choose which channels to watch,” he said. “There’s no reason that should be different in who you follow.”

The argument puts a good deal of trust in the user’s judgement and takes some pressure off journalists or random people on Twitter to present accurate information, but it’s an idea that fellow panelist Andy Carvin has popularized to much controversy recently. The idea came under fire during the spread of misinformation on Twitter during Hurricane Sandy, and certainly has its detractors:

But it’s a good reminder that even if we think of cable news as being particularly polarizing right now, news consumption and opinions on Twitter might not be all that different.

  1. What about attempting to avoid http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias ?

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  2. Most people aren’t engineers qualified to evaluate cars, or building inspectors qualified to buy houses, but most of them figure it out anyway. And they spend a lot more on and care a lot more about houses and cars.

    When a seller says the customer isn’t qualified to evaluate and consume their product, it sounds awfully condescending – more like someone is afraid of competing and making excuses for it – then viewing it as an opportunity to help the customer understand why their product is better.

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  3. Leon Benjamin Monday, March 11, 2013

    I don’t agree. I look for patterns not people. You should also read Bob Altemeyer’s take on followers and leaders based on 20 years of research. You’ll be surprised.
    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

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