Trustworthiness of tweets in post disaster events : a case study of Nepal Earthquake 2015 (2020)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Thesis DisciplineMedia and Communication
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
This research focuses on the trustworthiness of information shared through Twitter in a post- disaster event, particularly focusing on the Nepal earthquake, 2015. It explores how Twitter users access and verify tweets by utilizing their social networks and social capital in uncertain times like disasters. The availability of large amounts of information may affect people’s ability to select trustworthy information to make critical decisions in a post-disaster event. It investigates receivers’ perspectives of information verification processes by identifying the major sources of information post disaster through in-depth interviews.
A good understanding of information sharing and verifying processes is important as this helps government, media organizations and the public in their decision-making processes to respond to disaster events. It is difficult to assess what information a receiver finds trustworthy as this has been found to be influenced by the existing beliefs of the receiver. Thus, trust is a social and psychological phenomenon which can be studied on four levels: individual, interpersonal, relational and societal. This understanding of trust helps to explore how receivers verify information as trustworthy or not, as a failure to trust information may lead to a poor disaster response.
The receivers’ access to regular information could be disrupted in a disaster event, which can make receivers rely on information outside their regular network (weak ties environment). The research explores how trust develops in a weak ties environment and how receivers utilize their networks and social capital to verify trustworthiness of information, based on interviews with sixteen Twitter users across four different geographical locations. The interview participants shared their experiences of how they trusted information in the Nepal earthquake event, and the factors that influenced their trustworthy judgement of information. The constructive paradigm approach for the holistic understanding of the trustworthiness of tweets (information) has been adopted, as social knowledge is constructed based on the interaction between researcher and participants rather than being discovered.
The findings show that impersonal trust—trust that can evolve and dissolve among people or institutions for a certain time with no pre-existing relationships or links—is an important aspect in the online environment for collective action. The research also finds that receivers rely on various factors to perceive trustworthiness of information accessed through government, media and weak ties networks. The research argues that if the receivers have high social capital within their networks, the trustworthy judgement of information becomes easier and vice versa. It also emphasizes that people prefer to utilize their social networks to make trustworthiness judgements, rather than using outside networks.
The research contributes to government understanding of public sentiments after a disaster, the functioning of media organizations, news prioritizing processes, and their collaborating functions in an uncertain environment, by analysing the factors that people rely on while perceiving information as trustworthy. The research also contributes to disaster literature, particularly focusing on how people perceive trustworthiness of information and the factors that influence trustworthy judgement.