Truths and Rumors on Twitter: Analysis of the Spatiotemporal Distribution of Geolocated Tweets



Naylor, John J

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Twitter, one of the most popular online social media sites, has become a place for users to gather during world events and share information. As tweets are succinct and can be spread to large user groups with relative ease, the speed at which users can ingest information and then spread it further is high. This quick read-it and share-it paradigm has been one of the reasons for the fast growth of Twitter. At the same time the rapid nature of Twitter has created challenges with whether the information shared on it is either true or a rumor due to the lack of a formal scrutinizing process that is more common in traditional news outlets. In view of this challenge, this thesis aims to explore the possible existence of a relationship between the veracity of a tweet and its spatiotemporal spread. There have been several prominent events where rumors quickly spread through Twitter, one of which is the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing that resulted in three people being killed and leaving 264 others injured. In the twenty-four hours following the bombings, tens of thousands of geolocated tweets were sent concerning the Boston Bombing, containing both truth and rumors. Using the 2013 Boston Bombing event as a case study, this thesis examines the existence of patterns in the spatiotemporal spread of rumors and truths on Twitter using a set of techniques, namely spatiotemporal graphs, a logistic regression, and the Jaccard coefficient. Results from these analyses suggest that information veracity does not alter the overall spatiotemporal spread of information on Twitter, and provides additional insights into the spatiotemporal spread of information on a global scale.



Twitter, Geolocation of Tweets, Boston Marathon bombing, Rumors