Twitter is a Truth Machine

John Hermann reflects on the misinformation and lies that spread during last night's Hurricane Sandy blackouts:

The old adage, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes” should probably be abandoned along with other dated bits of wisdom — “Never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”

Because the internet today, as exasperating as it can be, is very good at one thing: vetting ascertainable facts.

Although there's certainly plenty of truth to Herrman's conclusion, I tend to think it only applies to a small demographic of Twitter users. The vast majority of Twitter users do not follow people who are actively "vetting ascertainable facts." Instead, most follow their friends and family.

In the grand scheme of trickle-down viral content, these are the people who see the information later on and are also likely to be tricked into unquestioning belief. It's not a matter of intelligence, but a matter of contextual awareness. And, for the vast majority of Twitter users, I would hazard a guess that most lack that information from their day-to-day timeline.

Still, the overarching point in Hermann's article is accurate. Twitter has allowed for the real-time dissection of news and rumors in a very novel and useful manner. Perhaps it's often filled with echo-chamber philosophizing and rampant sophism, but it can also prove to be a service of invaluable knowledge and discussion.

It's worth noting, also, that BuzzFeed has some phenomenal coverage on their refugee-Tumblr today. Definitely worth checking out.