The Dangers of Crowdsourcing

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Crowdsourcing is achieved through obtaining information or ideas from a group of people, typically through the internet. Journalists that use crowdsourcing can acquire large amounts of information that they otherwise may have been unable to get. However, journalists must be wary about the information they receive. According to Akagi and Linning, “Good journalistic crowdsourcing takes into consideration the validity, quality, and ownership of the data journalists are accessing.” (2013).

This opens up many doors for journalists. Rather than staring at a flat picture on the wall, you see all sides of the image – the front, back, sides, middle. You get multiple points of view, which can reduce bias, rather than just one viewpoint from the journalist. Though, this influx of information may allow journalists to pick and choose what information they like, while ignoring other information which may counteract their story. I’ll admit that this is a cynical outlook, I hope journalists who value uncovering the truth would be above such murky reporting, but the point remains. Having an almost unlimited pool of data can be overwhelming, and mistakes can occur.

Journalists can use crowdsourcing in a variety of ways. They can ask people to send them information about a current event that is ongoing, or about an event that recently took place. They can also look for information online where various people are discussing some type of occurrence that took place, an occurrence that the journalist is interested in.

This is where trouble can arise.

One famous (or infamous) case of crowdsourcing gone wrong is the Boston Bombing suspect fiasco. Users on the sites reddit and 4chan were certainly providing vast amounts of information, and also shoddy detective work. According to Wadhwa, “What started as an a typical request by the FBI to gather evidence from the public quickly morphed into a much uglier digital witch hunt, one where the crowd’s fears, prejudices, and suspicions were given credence, while guilt and innocence were doled out based on shreds of circumstantial evidence.” (2013). The users on these websites incorrectly identified suspects, yet journalists took these speculations as cold, hard facts.

While crowdsourcing can provide many opportunities for aspiring journalists, they must be careful about what information they use, and must ensure that the information is credible.

Source:

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Akagi, K., Linning, S. (2013). Crowdsourcing done right. Retrieved from: http://www.cjr.org/data_points/crowdsourcing_done_right.php

Wadhwa, T. (2013). Lessons From Crowdsourcing The Boston Bombing Investigation. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/tarunwadhwa/2013/04/22/lessons-from-crowdsourcing-the-boston-marathon-bombings-investigation/#7243847612b5

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