[ISAD334] Hypothesis

In my previous post I wrote about the supposed disparity between Twitter users and current legislation, noting several recent cases where laws intended to protect privacy were subverted by a legion of Twitter users. In the same article I also asked a question regarding what factors encourage a reader to trust the content of a given Twitter account.


For my assignment I have decided to further explore the issue of trust and what factors are most influential in helping to decide whether to believe a given Twitter account. In my project proposal, I outlined a number of possible factors a person may look at when making this decision:

  • The account’s username?
  • Use of a face vs. a logo in the profile picture?
  • Not having a profile picture (default “egg” picture)?
  • If a user’s interests or expertise is listed in their “about me” section?
  • If the account has been verified by twitter (blue tick)?
  • The number of other users following the account?

The issue of trust within social media is itself a very broad, with certain aspects this field having already been examined. A paper titled “Twitter under crisis: can we trust what we RT? by Mendoza, Poblete & Castillo studies the behaviour of Twitter uses in a emergency disaster situation and the effects that false information and rumours can have on the situation. While not directly relating to the topic I wish to cover, it does offer an insight into how much more easily people would believe rumours in a desperate situation, as well as detailing how rumours can be detected by aggregating tweets.

Another article “Interpersonal Trust: A Comparison of Attitudinal and Situational Factors(Scott, 1980), looks more into the issues of trust between people, and the circumstances which affects this trust. I feel this would be a good help with my research, however the article is currently restricted.

The language and structure of Tweets can also be an influence in making this decision; According to Ellis, Capra & Cowcroft (“In the mood for being influential on Twitter”, 2011) “popular and influential users linguistically structure their tweets in specific ways.” Therefore any experiment to gauge the believability of given Twitter users must also contain a number of sample tweets from those users.

The Hypothesis

It is my belief that a Twitter user would be able to determine whether another account is genuine, an imitation or spam by looking at their profile picture, description (biography) and a small sample of tweets from the account. I intend to test this hypothesis by presenting a number of people with a sample number of Twitter accounts containing the above information, and asking if they believe those Twitter accounts are genuine or imitations.

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