It's Not Twitter's Power To Misinform That We Should Be Worried About…
from the oh-come-on... dept
A few folks have sent in this essay by Evgeny Morozov at ForeignPolicy.com complaining about “Twitter’s power to misinform” concerning swine flu. It sure sounds good as a thesis, but it makes little sense. Twitter’s power to misinform is no different than any method of communication. The issue of swine flu is hardly limited to Twitter. It looks like it was all over the cable news channels, newspapers and news websites over the weekend. The fact that Morozov finds a few people were clueless on Twitter means nothing. Your next door neighbor could be clueless, and if he shouted over the backfence to Morozov something wrong about swine flu, would Morozov write an article about how picket fences have a power to misinform?
Part of the problem seems to be that Morozov (and many Twitter critics) seem to want to assign to it a purpose that it does not have and no one uses it for. If people are misinforming others via Twitter, that’s an issue about who you follow, not about Twitter as a whole. I’ll admit that I saw multiple mentions of swine flu over the weekend among the folks I follow on Twitter — but I believe every single one of them was making a joke of some sort. Should I then write an essay about “Twitter’s power to create laughter out of a serious situation”?
There are some clueless people out there — no doubt. And I’m sure those clueless people may know other clueless people, but there’s no indication that a sudden influx of dumb Twitter statements from clueless people resulted in further cluelessness. At no point does Morozov bother to see if any one of the Twitter users he mentioned have a significant number of followers, or if any of those followers actually believed/responded to the clueless statements. Nor does he investigate if (perhaps) some of the more knowledgeable followers of those users actually corrected the clueless. That’s because, just as a clueless person may repeat bad information, others can use Twitter to properly educate. Twitter, itself, is just a tool. Just like a website like ForeignPolicy.com. And it’s just as easy for someone like Morozov to misinform — such as by claiming Twitter misinforms — via ForeignPolicy.com than it is for individuals on Twitter to misinform. In the case of Morozov and ForeignPolicy.com, however, I’d argue the situation is worse, since there are probably a lot more readers, and they might actually believe that someone writing for a site like ForeignPolicy.com knows what they’re talking about.