Relaciones Internacionales – Comunicación Internacional

On Twitter, you are who you follow?

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What do the Twitter accounts we follow say about who we are? As I always mantained with traditional media, there are not two identical persons and any generalization is risky. When it comes to getting news on Twitter or on any other media, old or new, the country of residence conditions greatly our behabiour. Living in Cuba is very different from living in Colombia when looking for realiable sources. Covering the EU from Brussels forces us to use local, first or second hand sources, in very different fashion than when working in Paris, London or Madrid. After all, the EU is, after the US Administration, the most important factory of information in the world.

From these premises, I approached with a mixture of curiosity and interest the discussion organized at SXSW in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, March 10, 2013, with the announced participation of such capable fellows as Nate Silver and Ayman Moheldin.

Eliza Kern wrote a brief review of what she heard in the session for Gigaom:

Nate Silver polarization politics news crowdsourced Twitter verifciationAs Nate Silver discussed earlier today at SXSW in Austin on Sunday, the polarization of cable news and politics means that if you’re a serious Rachel Maddow fan, there’s only a tiny chance that you also vote Republican, and the same is true of Sean Hannity listeners and chances they’ll go for Democrats. 

But as we change where we get our news and turn to places like Twitter for information and verification of facts, it’s important to ask how that polarization will translate to social media – if it will at all. Several journalists discussing the future of news dissemination (something we’ll also be discussing at paidContent Live in April) tied these issues to those of crowdsourced news, particularly in the Middle East, when the tensions between accuracy and access are most apparent.

NBC correspondant Ayman Mohyeldin made an interesting argument about verification, arguing that people should be free to select the accounts they want to follow and personally decide whether to trust that information or not, just as they tune into particular cable shows in the United States and apply their own sense of skepticism to Maddow and Hannity.

The simple doubt about anyone’s freedom to decide whom to follow and whom to trust soundes strange to my ears. Listeners, no matter their education, have demonstrated to be quite good selecting their favourite shows, channels, stations or programs in democracies as well as dictatorships.

The key is credibility and pluralism. Obviously, in those places where both are lacking whom to follow becomes a serious problem. In most places the difficulty today has more to do with saturation and selection than with pluralism.


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