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Chris Shipley“Information — accurate or otherwise — travels at the speed of a ‘like’ button,” says technology journalist Chris Shipley.

Concerned about the impact of how quickly information spreads on social media and the credibility of the information, Shipley is focused on identifying potential “stop-points” that could help prevent the viral spread of misinformation.

She is exploring the issue of credibility in social media this fall as a residential fellow at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.

“Today, everyone with a smartphone and a Twitter account can become a news reporter. The journalist, then, takes on a new role as validator of information in the social stream,” Shipley said.

Unlike journalists, most citizens are not trained to understand sourcing and fact checking, says Shipley. It is easy to quickly read and repost an interesting article before taking the time to ask if the article is credible or not. The public — and trained journalists — must become more critical of the information they find in the social stream, before they amplify it with each repost on social media.

The accuracy and credibility required of journalists have become necessary life skills, like financial literacy, and need to be taught to people at a young age, Shipley said.

“We need to educate consumers to be more critical consumers of news information and more responsible creators, curators and distributors,” she said.

Today, social media influence is measured largely by reach. How many people follow someone on Twitter? How often do they post, and how often are those posts retweeted?

Shipley is exploring means by which credibility can be merged with reach to determine true influence.

Developing tools for social posters

During her fellowship, Shipley wants to provide tools to information consumers to help them identify reliable sources of information and build trust in social media sources. She hopes to develop best practice guidelines and create a credibility index system as a means of inciting online journalists (professional and non-professional) to adopt better practices.

It is Shipley’s hope that these tools will enable information consumers to identify the credibility of a specific news item and sources and enable social media consumers and curators to self-identify as adherents to best practices.

Shipley, who resides in Silicon Valley in California, also plans to leverage her startup experience to help RJI establish opportunities with technology and social media companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

Jennifer Nelson  
   
Senior Information Specialist



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