How Information Snowballs: Exploring the Role of Exposure in Online Rumor Propagation


In this paper we highlight three distinct approaches to studying rumor dynamics—volume, exposure, and content production. Expanding upon prior work, which has focused on rumor volume, we argue that considering the size of the exposed population is a vital component of understanding rumoring. Additionally, by combining all three approaches we discover subtle features of rumoring behavior that would have been missed by applying each approach in isolation. Using a case study of rumoring on Twitter during a hostage crisis in Sydney, Australia, we apply a mixed-methods framework to explore rumoring and its consequences through these three lenses, focusing on the added dimension of exposure in particular. Our approach demonstrates the importance of considering both rumor content and the people engaging with rumor content to arrive at a more holistic understanding of communication dynamics. These results have implications for emergency responders and official use of social media during crisis management.

Proceedings of the 19th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing