MIT Researchers: 'Lies Spread Faster Than Truth'

Trump fake news

And it wasn't bots spreading most of the falsehoods, they found. False political stories - researchers didn't separate conservative versus liberal - and stuff that was surprising or anger-provoking spread faster than other types of lies, Aral said. He and his co-authors Soroush Vosoughi and Deb Roy at MIT Media Lab found out that the false news stories on Twitter were 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than the true ones.

The study, of news and rumors shared by 3 million Twitter users, found that false information spreads more quickly and further than accurate information. They determined which stories were false and which were true by fact-checking them on several reliable news sources.

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

Unsurprisingly, political content was the most popular, and researchers noted spikes in the spread of false political rumours during both the 2012 and 2016 USA presidential elections.

"False news is more novel, and people are more likely to share novel information", one of the study's co-authors, Professor Sinan Aral, quantified. And on social networks, people can gain attention by being the first to share previously unknown (but possibly false) information.

"How do you get a few billion people to stop for a moment and reflect before they hit the retweet or the share button", he says, "especially when they have an emotional response to what they've just seen".

What they found was that fake stories reached more people and propagated faster through the Twittersphere than real stories.

The effects were more pronounced for false political news (45,000 tweets) than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends or financial information. "I realized that. a good chunk of what I was reading on social media was rumors", he added. Aral, Roy, and Vosoughi suggest the answer may reside in human psychology: We like new things. "There is thus a risk that repeating false information, even in a fact-checking context, may increase an individual's likelihood of accepting it as true".

Leanne Baker is one of those people who unwittingly retweeted a false story - a post that said the alleged Parkland, Fla., high school shooter had trained with a right-wing militia group. They said it could be because fake news tends to be "more novel".

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. And Roy says the findings may help create "measurements or indicators that could become benchmarks" for social networks, advertisers, and other parties.

Roy said the study results reminded him of the often-cited quotation that essentially says a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots - or trousers - on.

The MIT scholars say it is possible that the same phenomenon occurs on other social media platforms, including Facebook, but they emphasize that careful studies are needed on that and other related questions.

In a streamed conversation with users, CEO Jack Dorsey said the company will work hard on the problem.

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