Self-correcting mechanisms and echo-effects in social media: An analysis of the “gunman in the newsroom” crisis

The positive and negative effects of social media in crises are currently receiving an increased amount of scholarly attention. This study focuses on Twitter users in the context of a crisis in the Netherlands on January 29, 2015. After having made a bomb threat, an armed man managed to get access to the national news broadcasting station around 8 pm, where he demanded airplay to share “an important message” with Dutch citizens. Three weeks after the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, approximately 1.5 million viewers were anxious that a similar attack was taking place in the television studio. The crisis, also followed by social media users, reached a climax when armed policemen arrested the man, which was later shown on national TV. We analyzed 58,931 tweets, posted in the six hours after the incident. By examining shared facts and rumors during the gunman crisis, we identified an “echo-effect”: the dissemination of older tweets continued after the posting of new facts by the same source. Moreover, we found that two rumors were based on misinterpreted humor in Twitter messages. The study adds insight into the self-correcting mechanism of social media communities when verifying and dispelling online rumors during crises.

Wouter Jong, & Michel L.A. Dückers | 2016
In: Computers in Human Behavior, ISSN 0747-5632 | 59 | 334–341
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