LitReview: Hiding in plain sight: A tale of trust and mistrust inside a community of Citizen Reporters

Mustafaraj, E., Metaxas, P., Finn, S., and Monroy-Hernandez, A. (2012) Hiding in plain sight: a tale of trust inside a community of citizen reporters [link]

“The rise of the Social Web has created a new outlet for staying informed: citizen reporting. The different social media and networking platforms, like YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook allow everyone in the world to report in real-time what is happening in the place they live.”

“Anyone can be a reporter. However, this poses a new problem: how do we assess the credibility of citizen reporting? “

“When we read news, we usually choose our information sources based on the reputation of the media organization: BBC, New York Times, Der Spiegel, etc. We trust the news organizations, therefore we expect that their reporting is credible … (Baron 2005).”

“Citizen reporting lacks the inherent structures that help us evaluate credibility as we do with traditional media reporting. But sometimes, citizen reporting might be the only source of information. How can we use technology to help us verify the credibility of such reports?”

I couldn’t quite follow how the methodology produced a greater understanding of trust within that community but the article provided many useful ways of assessing Twitter relationships.

The idea of a social media user having gained trust is shown through how much that user is retweeted, linked to and how much content they produce, from what I gathered. The number of followers and followees are also an important criterion.

The authors write about the Twitter gardenhose and how it was accessed to find users as part of a community. Search (in 2012) could not return results older than seven days and it also could not return deleted tweets. So the authors found a particular hashtag, traced it back to the users, found their followers and followees, and then assessed the criteria and links, retweets, etc. according to that corpus.

The technique seems very useful in finding how information is spread and how much trust and reliance there is in certain users.


The technique is partially useful to me in assessing trust in a network of spreading information. However, because it is Twitter based, and my research seeks to understand how social media affects local political participation and knowledge — which can also be found outside Twitter — it doesn’t help me entirely. It’s a useful addition though.

Published by Joanna

A collection of fleeting thoughts that tend to focus around Bristol, food, movies, music and photography.

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