Study Finds False Stories Spread Faster Than The Truth

  • Study Finds False Stories Spread Faster Than The Truth

Study Finds False Stories Spread Faster Than The Truth

Not all false news is created equal. And the United States recently indicted 13 alleged members of a Russian trolling operation, in part for spreading propaganda on Twitter and Facebook during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In the same issue of Science, a group of additional researchers echoed this sentiment in an article of their own, arguing that social media platforms have "an ethical and social responsibility" to contribute what data they can. Put another way, humans love clickbait, they love to be surprised, but they are also prone to things that validate their fears. Similarly, the researchers identified common themes in the phrasing of replies to false rumors - users more frequently expressed words associated with disgust and surprise when they commented on untruths.

What is true and what is false?

They call for more high-quality research into the false news problem and what can be done about it, pointing to reforms in the early 20th century that gave rise to legitimate newspapers with ethics promoting objectivity and credibility out of the ashes of a boisterous yellow press. The study published Thursday is more wide-ranging: A team of researchers at MIT tracked falsehoods and truths using a database of every tweet written from 2006 to 2017.

The amount of false news on Twitter is clearly increasing and spikes during key events, like the USA presidential elections of 2012 and 2016. Then they pulled out tweets related to news that had been investigated by six independent fact-checking organizations-websites like PolitiFact, Snopes, and FactCheck.org. Falsehoods were 70 percent more likely to be retweeted, even when controlling for the age of the original tweeter's account, its activity level, the number of its followers and followees, and whether Twitter had verified the account as genuine. False news spread farther "despite these characteristics, not because of them", Aral said. I have bad news: It's not the bots. He "expected bots to play a significant role" in infecting social media with fake news. The analysis, one of the largest ever done on the spread of false news online, included 126,000 stories spread by 3 million people more than 4.5 million times. "The next logical step is to ask, 'What can we do about it?'" said Vosoughi.

He said he was unsure whether or not bots would be more prominent if the study had focused exclusively on political news.

"We found that falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information", the authors wrote.

Not all bots are malicious, for example, publishers use bots to automatically tweet news headlines.

"I had a hunch that there was a difference between how false and truthful news stories spread across Twitter".

You may want to blame the virality of lies on the bots, those tiny software programs disguised as people. False news spread despite these differences, not because of them, the researchers said. The effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends or financial information.

"We are not going to remove content based on the fact this is untrue", he told British MPs in February.

Why retweet that post before you know whether it's actually true?

"Twitter became our main source of news", Vosoughi said in a statement.

While the spread of false news on social media has always had real world consequences - for example, leading to drops in the stock market - the 2016 US presidential election has emerged as a watershed example of how far and wide that influence can reach.

When they looked at who was spreading the wrong stuff, they found it was ordinary users of social media.