Breaking News and Younger Twitter Users: Comparing Self-Reported Motivations to Online Behavior

Joseph, Kenneth; Wihbey, John

Breaking news represents an important avenue of information about current events, including life-or-death information during natural disasters, but it can also serve as a vector along which misinformation can rapidly spread. In the present work we study factors associated with the sharing of breaking news by young, college-aged students. Using a unique combination of survey and behavioral data, we identify traits associated with a propensity to share breaking news on Twitter.We find that individuals who share more breaking news report high levels of confidence in their ability to differentiate real from fake news and to manage information overload. However, breaking news sharing is not associated with the reported use of traditional fact-checking strategies (e.g., finding other sources for the same information) before sharing. Thus, our data are consistent with the idea that breaking news sharers tend to rely, at least in part, on confidence in their own understanding of the news when determining what breaking news to share. We contextualize these findings by studying patterns of general news sharing and non-news sharing, as well as studying connections between party affiliation and factors associated with the sharing of content.