Rumor is a piece of unsubstantiated information that can be spread quickly by word-of-mouth or over the Internet. It can be about anything from a person’s personal life to a major event. The term is derived from the Latin rumorem, meaning “noise or report without foundation.”
Rumours are usually false but can still cause large amounts of panic among people who believe them. In a world where everybody is connected through social networks, the speed and accuracy with which rumors can spread are increasing. This makes it harder to verify the truth of a rumor and can lead to serious consequences. The internet has also made it easy to spread rumours about companies or events such as the fake picture of a man with an odd expression which was spread on the Facebook page of McDonald’s and later denied by the company.
The spread of a rumor depends on several factors. People tend to discuss rumors that are important to them. Uncertainty about a situation also promotes rumor discussion as people try to understand what is happening and predict future events. People also tend to discuss rumors that they think are true.
It has been shown that rumors tend to be accurate when they are disseminated by individuals who are seeking the truth. This is because these individuals are motivated by a desire to find out the truth and want others to share their findings. In addition, a desire to conform to group norms and epistemic standards also increases the accuracy of rumor dissemination. For example, soldiers in one study who were required to confirm rumors by asking superior officers found that rumors circulated among their unit were highly accurate. Other factors that increase rumor accuracy include whether the rumor is positive or negative, the type of cultural axioms and ideas that the rumor public subscribes to, and the social mechanisms at work. For instance, positive rumors (such as a pipe dream) reflect people’s wishes and hopes and are more likely to be shared than negative ones (bogie or wedge-driving rumors).
There are many reasons why people tell rumors. They may be told for a variety of purposes such as to improve a relationship with the listener. For example, telling a rumor about someone’s university education may be a way to impress a friend. Or a rumor may be told to help manage threats to one’s psychological sense of self by building up the listener’s own group and derogating other groups.
In this article, we use Twitter to analyze rumors that spread after the 2011 Japan earthquake. Using a technique called social network analysis, we identify users who support and endorse a given rumor, as well as those who challenge it, regardless of its veracity status. We then visualize the rumor’s veracity status, displaying the proportion of supporters and deniers at each time point. In particular, we show that a rumor’s veracity can change rapidly as a result of these dynamics.