Engage Early, Correct More: How Journalists Participate in False Rumors Online during Crisis Events


Journalists are struggling to adapt to new conditions of news production and simultaneously encountering criticism for their role in spreading misinformation. Against the backdrop of this “crisis in journalism”, this research seeks to understand how journalists are actually participating in the spread and correction of online rumors. We compare the engagement behaviors of journalists to non-journalists— and specifically other high visibility users—within five false rumors that spread on Twitter during three crisis events. Our findings show journalists engaging earlier than non-journalists in the spread and the correction of false rumors. However, compared to other users, journalists are (proportionally) more likely to deny false rumors. Journalists are also more likely to author original tweets and to be retweeted—underscoring their continued role in shaping the news. Interestingly, journalists scored high on “power user” measures, but were distinct from other power users in significant ways—e.g. by being more likely to deny rumors.

Proceedings of the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems