The Source and Credibility of Colorectal Cancer Information on Twitter

    loading  Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid

Abstract

Despite the rapid penetration of social media in modern life, there has been limited research conducted on whether social media serves as a credible source of health information. In this study, we propose to identify colorectal cancer information on Twitter and assess its informational credibility.

We collected Twitter messages containing colorectal cancer-related keywords, over a 3-month period. A review of sample tweets yielded content and user categorization schemes. The results of the sample analysis were applied to classify all collected tweets and users, using a machine learning technique. The credibility of the information in the sampled tweets was evaluated.

A total of 76,119 tweets were analyzed. Individual users authored the majority of tweets (n = 68,982, 90.6%). They mostly tweeted about news articles/research (n = 16,761, 22.0%) and risk/prevention (n = 14,767, 19.4%). Medical professional users generated only 2.0% of total tweets (n = 1509), and medical institutions rarely tweeted (n = 417, 0.6%). Organizations tended to tweet more about information than did individuals (85.2% vs 63.1%; P < 0.001). Credibility analysis of medically relevant sample tweets revealed that most were medically correct (n = 1763, 84.5%). Among those, more frequently retweeted tweets contained more medically correct information than randomly selected tweets (90.7% vs 83.2%; P < 0.01).

Our results demonstrate an interest in and an engagement with colorectal cancer information from a large number and variety of users. Coupled with the Internet's potential to increase social support, Twitter may contribute to enhancing public health and empowering users, when used with proper caution.

Related Topics

    loading  Loading Related Articles