An extended abstract of new research coming out of Wellesley Colllege was recently made available on arXiv and linked to below.
Panagiotis Takis Metaxas
Department of Computer Science, Wellesley College (All Authors)
Arguably one of the most important features of Twitter is the support for “retweets” or messages re-posted verbatim by a user that were originated by someone else. (This does not include modified tweets that sometimes are referred to as retweets.) Despite the fact that retweets are routinely studied and reported, many important questions remain about user motivation for their use and their significance. In this paper we answer the question of what users indicate when they retweet. We do so in a comprehensive fashion, by employing a user survey, a study of user profiles, and a meta-analysis of over 100 research publications from three related major conferences.
Our findings indicate that retweeting indicates not only interest in a message, but also trust in the message and the originator, and agreement with the message contents. However, the findings are significantly weaker for journalists, some of whom beg to differ declaring so in their own user profiles. On the other hand, the inclusion of hashtags strengthens the signal of agreement, especially when the hashtags are related to politics. While in the past there have been additional claims in the literature about possible reasons for retweeting, many of them are not supported, especially given the technical changes introduced recently by Twitter.
Direct to Extended Abstract (5 pages; PDF)