Does KFC sell rat? Analysis of tweets in the wake of a rumor outbreak

Anjan Pal*, Alton Y.K. Chua, Dion Hoe Lian Goh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: In the wake of a rumor outbreak, individuals exchange three types of messages: rumor messages, counter-rumor messages, and uncertainty-expressing messages. However, the properties of the three types of messages are relatively unknown particularly in the social media context. Hence, the purpose of this paper is to examine these three types of messages posted on social media in the wake of a rumor outbreak. Design/methodology/approach: Data included tweets posted after the outbreak of a rumor that wrongly accused the fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) for selling rats instead of chicken. Using a deductive approach, codes were derived via content analysis on the tweets. Volume and exposure of tweets were also examined. Findings: Counter-rumor tweets (52 percent) outnumbered rumors tweets (32 percent) and uncertainty-expressing tweets (16 percent). Emotions and personal involvement were abundant in rumor tweets. Expressions of credence and references to URLs were high in counter-rumor tweets. Social ties were found widely in uncertainty-expressing tweets. The high volume and exposure of counter-rumor tweets compared with those of either rumor tweets or uncertainty-expressing tweets highlight the potential of counter-rumors to mitigate rumors. Originality/value: This research ventures into a relatively unexplored territory by concurrently examining rumor messages, counter-rumor messages and uncertainty-expressing messages in the wake of a rumor outbreak. It reveals that counter-rumor messages have the potential to mitigate rumors on social media.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)660-673
Number of pages14
JournalAslib Journal of Information Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Counter-rumor
  • Crisis informatics
  • Online rumors
  • Rumoring phenomena
  • Social media
  • User-generated content

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