Fake news travels six times faster than the truth on Twitter


The results were published Thursday in the journal Science.

According to Aral, fake news stories are shared "farther, faster, deeper and more broadly, in every category." backing up that statement with a figure that these stories are a shocking 70 percent more likely to be passed around than those that are true. The researcher duo studied 126,000 cascades which were tweeted out over 4.5 million times by 3 million people between 2006 and 2017. Whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1,000 people, the top 1% of false-news cascades routinely diffused to between 1,000 and 100,000 people.

Aral says much more research is needed to develop appropriate strategies for reining in fake news. When they analyzed the Twitter archive for mentions of the verified stories, tracing the way the information spread, they found that true news was lucky if it spread to more than 1,000 people. A more robust identification of the factors that drive the spread of true and false news will require direct interaction with users through interviews, surveys and lab experiments. The authors point out that we tend to see people with novel or new information as being in-the-know-;that is, we see them like insiders.

The stories were classified as true or false based on evaulations made by six independent fact-checking organizations.

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.

But in this case, I think it would be pretty easy. Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

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Twitter provided its data for the research. Indeed, they report, false news that spreads fast is considered more novel; that novel information is more likely to be retweeted.

Dr Vosoughi is now looking at interventions to try and stop the virality of false news. Sure enough, when the researchers checked how novel a tweet was (by comparing it, statistically, with other tweets) they found false tweets were significantly more novel than the true ones.

In particular, the team looked at the likelihood that a tweet would create a "cascade" of retweets, creating patterns of repeated clustered conversations. 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. They estimate that 60 million "bots" post automatic updates on Facebook and up to 48 million are on Twitter. But, of course, Twitter won't do that. "But at the end of the day you're going to have to find a way to work with Facebook".

Finding that false information has a propensity to spread quickly is bad enough, but it gets worse.

The team explained their reasoning behind this decision: "As politicians have implemented a political strategy of labelling news sources that do not support their positions as unreliable or fake news, whereas sources that support their positions are labelled reliable or not fake, the term has lost all connection to the actual veracity of the information presented, rendering it meaningless for use in academic classification".

The spread of fake news in these was more prominent when it came to politics than business, science, entertainment or other topics.

Whatever the problem is called, solutions remain elusive, especially at a time when fact-checking sites themselves are often accused of bias. They found that their judgments matched with facts about 95 percent of the time.