Published: Sat, March 10, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

False information travels 6 times faster than the truth on Twitter

False information travels 6 times faster than the truth on Twitter

The data is revealing: Those tweets that were relaying true news stories would rarely be shared by 1000 Twitter users, but false news stories were routinely reaching 10,000 people. They found that lies spread faster, farther, deeper and more broadly than the truth-even when they factored out the influence of the bots. Although considerable attention has been paid to anecdotal analyses of the spread of false news by the media, there haven't been a large empirical study of the diffusion of misinformation.

The six fact-checking websites agreed with each other on classification at least 95 percent of the time, plus two outside researchers did some independent fact-checking to make sure everything was OK, said co-author Sinan Aral, an MIT management professor. It's pretty simple: "Think before you retweet", Roy said.

"If you can design headlines that gathers eyeballs rather than purveys truth - that is the weaponization of news", said Weninger.

Compared to tweets about claims that were verifiably true, tweets about claims that were undeniably false were 70 percent more likely to be retweeted in the Twitterverse.

Aral says this finding surprised him amid all the recent focus on bots-not just in the media but also during testimony before the Senate and House intelligence committees. This is good in the sense that it keeps you curious and motivated to keep searching, but it's bad in the news context in that you're more likely to click on and promote what's more outrageous.

In a related article in the journal Science, a professor from Indiana University called for a coordinated investigation into the underlying social, psychological and technological forces behind fake news. They found that false stories often had significantly more "depth" on Twitter.

False information on the internet travels faster than the truth, researchers said Thursday.

Twitter has increasingly become a platform for organizations and people to share news, but a lot of the news being retweeted is actually fake. So not only were the retweet chains longer, but they were more likely to branch off into new chains.

The researchers considered "news" to be "any asserted claim made on Twitter". Facebook has partnered with third-party fact-checkers and is blocking ads from appearing on fake news sites.

Interestingly, the researchers found that so-called bots accelerated the spread of both true and false news information at about the same rate.

Three MIT scholars took it upon themselves to find out why the prevalence of false news is so prominent on social media, specifically Twitter. This novelty is problematic in the Twitter realm because humans everywhere are already poor at discerning between truth and falsehood. Examining this "novelty hypothesis", the team found that "people respond to false news more with surprise and disgust", whereas true stories produced replies more generally characterised by sadness, anticipation, and trust.

Though these bots may originate the fake stories, it's real people who are spreading them, according to the study.

False information is likely more widespread because it plays on salacious or controversial elements in ways the truth typically can not, according to the researchers.

Baum says he and Kennedy School colleagues are preparing to also study the potential role of platforms beyond social media, including WhatsApp and other direct-messaging tools.

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