Study finds fake news spread by social media users not bots

Fake news spreads faster than true news on Twitter—thanks to people, not bots

But according to users on Twitter, it did.

The phrase "false news" may stand out in an era where "fake news" is the term of choice for every media outlet including, usually, this one.

The retweet is powerful.

"I realized that ... a good chunk of what I was reading on social media was rumours; it was false news".

"The authors are very honest with the interpretation of their results: They can not claim any causality between novelty and endorsement, but they provide convincing evidence that novelty plays an important role in spreading fake information", said Manlio De Domenico, a scientist at the Bruno Kessler Foundation's Center for Information and Communication Technology in Italy who tracked how the Higgs boson rumor spread on Twitter.

SEE ALSO: No, Brooklyn BBQ is not taking over the world.

The researchers, which included former Twitter chief media scientist Deb Roy, used six fact-checking organizations to determine whether stories were true or false. In January, the Republican Party handed out "Fake News Awards".

The most common subject matter was false political news.

Why do people fall for it, whether it's from a bot or a real friend?

Lazer says he doesn't think the problem of fake news will ever completely go away -spreading false information is part of human nature.

"The central concept of this paper is veracity", Aral said.

Untrue stories also had more staying power, carrying onto more "cascades", or unbroken re-tweet chains, they found. The protesters were defending the debunked conspiracy theory that linked Hillary Clinton to a sex-trafficking ring.

While the researchers make no judgement over whether this false news is believed by those humans who spread it or those who it reaches ("we did not get into the heads of those consuming or sharing false news", Aral says, ) the researchers speculate that the novelty factor of false news stories may encourage its spread, when compared to mundane truths.

Now, we do - often rashly. In other words, a false tweets were more likely to hop, via retweets, from one user to another to another. It could be, for example, that labeling news stories, in much the same way we label food, could change the way people consume and share it. In an article accompanying the Science study Thursday, Menczer joined 15 other prominent academics calling for greater research into the spread of misinformation online. Fox News is trusted by more than three times as many Americans as Bloomberg, while all the major TV networks are trusted by more Americans, and rated as less reliable, than the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. The definition of what the researchers defined as news is broader than the traditional meaning, and they accepted any asserted claims made on Twitter as news.

Some notion of truth is central to the proper functioning of almost every realm of human endeavor.

"They're frightful at it", said Andrew Butler, an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis who played no role in the study, in an interview. "On Facebook you have people who are more likely to know one another sharing information, so it is possible the objective of sharing is less to deceive than it would be on Twitter", Lazer adds.

In a way, we're also naturally gullible.

Rumor cascades based on true news "rarely" spread to more than 1,000 people. Government weather forecasters accurately predict the arrival of powerful nor'easters.

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