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False information travels 6 times faster than the truth on Twitter

09 March 2018

He also said removing the economic incentive of publishing fake news by weeding them out using algorithms, as Facebook has started to do, could be helpful. The discovery of the Higgs boson leaked through Twitter before its official announcement in 2012. Falsehood diffused farther and faster despite these seeming shortcomings.

The study was conducted by researchers at MIT, and published on Thursday in the journal Science.

It was sparked by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, when Vosoughi realized much of what he was reading on social media amounted to rumors.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology looked at more than 126,000 stories tweeted millions of times between 2006 and the end of 2016 - before Donald Trump took office but during the combative presidential campaign.

The study's authors agree with that point. Congress and the FBI are investigating evidence that Russian and other foreign users deliberately flooded social media with untrue reports and posts meant to mislead people about political candidates.

"These results are important and disturbing", Aral says. "I say that boldly because I know it's hard to make a claim like that". And falsities were 70% more likely to be retweeted than truths, according to a model of the data.

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The researchers verified the accuracy of the stories by consulting fact-checking websites that investigate media information and widely circulating rumors - like snopes.com and factcheck.org.

It might be because false statements sound more surprising, they said.

By nearly all metrics, false cascades outpaced true ones.

Rumor cascades based on true news "rarely" spread to more than 1,000 people. "The result was a sample of rumor cascades whose veracity had been agreed on by these organizations between 95 and 98 percent". As it turned out, tweets containing false information were more novel-they contained new information that a Twitter user hadn't seen before - than those containing true information.

They noted increases in false political stories during the 2012 and 2016 U.S. presidential races.

Twitter provided the data for the study and funded the work. "People who share novel information are seen as being in the know". When they factored the bots into the study, the researchers found that the bots didn't distinguish between fake news and the truth. If you can scare, gross out or shock, people are more likely to pass your information along.

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The scientists have called for more research into the behavioural explanations for spreading misinformation and fake news. Using techniques to identify bots, they determined that software-run accounts spread falsehoods and truths equally.

But social media serves as the currents in which false and misleading news is swept far and wide.

The study also found that fake news stories "inspired fear, disgust, and surprise", while real news stories "inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust".

"If I'm just reacting on an emotional level and clicking 'retweet, ' then I can become part of the problem", Menczer said.

Of the types of false news the researchers studied, political news was by far the most virulent.

This graph shows how fake news spreads faster and further than real news.

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During President Obama's tenure, one false tweet claimed that he had been injured in an explosion. Not Twitter, apparently, according to one company executive who recently testified before British officials that "We are not the arbiters of truth". That's arguably manipulation at its finest, and we even teach others how to do it.

False information travels 6 times faster than the truth on Twitter