Twitter has become a powerful source of information about breaking news. Surveys show that young people increasingly rely on it for news about events as they unfold in real time. But it’s not always easy to distinguish a tweet that’s based on a legitimate source from one that relies on hearsay.
Our assessment taps a student’s ability to assess the trustworthiness of different kinds of tweets. The student is presented with four tweets about the resignation of the Ferguson, Missouri, police chief in March 2015. Successful students will separate characteristics of the tweets that are not relevant to their credibility (e.g. the picture accompanying the tweet from “The Subject” or Lisa Bloom’s tweet of her opinion) from characteristics that establish credibility, such as the source of the tweet itself or the evidence that accompanies it (e.g. a URL from an established news source).
Successful students argue that the tweet from NPR News is the best source of information. NPR is the only news organization represented in the tweets, and as a reputable news organization, it holds itself to a standard of reliable reporting. Moreover, the NPR tweet provides both a source for its claim and a link to follow for more information.