Innovation That Matters

A network of retweets using #StrangerThings visualised using the Networks Tool. | Photo source The Observatory on Social Media at Indiana University

Social media tools help the public assess viral posts

Publishing & Media

The aim is to give journalists, researchers and the public a more varied, and more objective view of social media

Spotted:  In recent years, there has been a huge proliferation of information and communication online. This increase in the availability of information has created what Thomas Hills, a psychology professor at the University of Warwick, calls ‘attentional bottlenecks.’ These bottlenecks occur when we are bombarded with so much information that we can only pay attention to a limited amount of it. This often leads to us making choices based on fear, peer pressure, and global groupthink, rather than on reason and evidence. Add to this the false amplification of information by bots, and we have a situation where it is difficult to know what and who to trust – especially on social media. 

Now, Indiana University’s Observatory on Social Media (OSoMe) has launched three no-cost research tools that help people understand viral social media posts. The aim is to give journalists, researchers, and the public a more varied and objective view of social media. The tools leverage roughly 50 million tweets a day. This equates to roughly 10 per cent of public tweets, which are then analysed and indexed for use through these tools.

“You often hear something is going viral, but how? Our tools show you what the conversation is, who the players are, what the viral messages are, and you can even visualise polarization. It provides a place for exploration of topics and how they work together.” says Filippo Menczer, director of OSoMe.

The first tool is called The Networks Tool, which allows users to visualise how tweets are distributed in an interactive 3D map. The second is The Trends Tool, which analyses the volume of tweets associated with a certain hashtag, URL, or keyword within a specific timeframe. The third tool, BotAmp, is designed to help users identify likely bot activity related to a particular keyword.

These tools provide a valuable resource for understanding the dynamics of social media and can be used for a variety of purposes, such as researching a news event or tracking the spread of misinformation.

Other innovations spotted by Springwise looking at biases in information dispersal include Capital B, a new non-profit media company dedicated to highlighting important issues affecting Black people, a media analysis platform that rates new reliability and bias, and a new app teaching people to trust the news again.  

Written By: Katrina Lane



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