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Social Networks

Power networks in Congress, Twitter’s crystal ball and iPhone contagion in news from an MIT workshop

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4:52pm, June 8, 2011

Information and Decision in Social Networks, MIT workshop in Cambridge, Mass., May 31–June 1, 2011

Twitter’s a lousy soothsayer
If you’re ditching your crystal ball for the oracle of Twitter, think again. Despite analyses suggesting that the volume and content of tweets can predict the outcome of political elections, research using the same techniques finds the social media tool is more like a hazy Magic 8 Ball. Predictions of six 2010 Senate race winners based on Twitter chatter volume and sentiment were correct only half the time, Eni Mustafaraj of Wellesley College reported June 1. Manipulation of social media by spammers and propagandists and the skewed demographics of tweeters are probably to blame, she says. With better sampling and algorithms, mining Twitter may one day provide more meaningful information. —Rachel Ehrenberg

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