MIT study finds fake news travels faster

On Twitter False News Travels Faster and Penetrates Deeper Than the Truth

The researchers, working out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that 126,000 verifiably false stories were spread by roughly three million people. Although bots do join to the spread of false news, they also have the same impact on truthful news.

As for how Twitter users can battle the fake news epidemic, the researchers offer a very simple solution: "Think before you retweet".

They say that humans can only blame themselves, as an algorithm was used to strip out potential bots.

"It took the truth about six times as long as falsehood to reach 1,500 people".

The study was published in the March 9 issue of the scientific journal Science.

"Twitter became our main source of news", said Dr Vosoughi. A new study finds that false information on the social media network travels six times faster than the truth and reaches far more people. Subsequently, Vosoughi and Roy - Vosoughi's graduate advisor at the time - made a decision to pivot Vosoughi's PhD focus to develop a model that could predict the veracity of rumors on Twitter. Twitter provided its data for the research. Roy served as Twitter's chief media scientist from 2013 to 2017.

Vosoughi is now calling on researchers to pick up where he left off and dig into why people seem predisposed to share fake news.

"There's two parts to the spread of false news".

"I did think that bots were going to be able to explain at least some of the variance in the spread of false news compared to the truth".

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"Contrary to conventional wisdom", the researchers wrote, "robots accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it". And on social networks, people can gain attention by being the first to share previously unknown (but possibly false) information.

Read the full text of "The spread of true and false news online" at Science Mag here.

"We found that false news was more novel than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share novel information", they wrote. They found that the surprise people have when interacting with false information fits in with their theory of novelty fueling this proliferation of pointless propaganda.

While the three researchers all think the magnitude of the effect they found is highly significant, their views on its civic implications vary slightly.

"I am not saying that bots are not a problem". In general, the researchers found that the misinformation spread faster because it was more fanciful and outrageous.

Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are under big pressure to do more to stop the spread of fake news.

In a January submission to Congress, Twitter revised a prior disclosure, saying that more than 50,000 thousand Russian-linked bots and 3,800 human operatives were responsible for tweeting content related to the 2016 USA election.

Vosoughi, for his part, suggests that if some people are deliberately spreading false news while others are doing so unwittingly, then the phenomenon is a two-part problem that may require multiple tactics in response.

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