Fake news, especially false political news, travels faster than legitimate reports a study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has revealed. They deliberately did not use the phrase fake news, and they outsourced claims of veracity to Snopes.com, Politifact.com and four other independent fact-checking organisations. Almost two-thirds were false, just under one-fifth were true, and the rest were mixed.
Subsequently, after consultation with Aral - another of Vosoughi's graduate advisors, who has studied social networks extensively - the three researchers made a decision to try the approach used in the new study: objectively identifying news stories as true or false, and charting their Twitter trajectories. Thus, as Aral puts it, "people who share novel information are seen as being in the know".
The big take away, according to The Atlantic, is that "Falsehoods nearly always beat out the truth on Twitter, penetrating further, faster, and deeper into the social network than accurate information". But the scholars agree it is important to think about ways to limit the spread of misinformation, and they hope their result will encourage more research on the subject.
Concern over bogus stories online has escalated in recent months because of evidence the Russians spread disinformation on social media during the 2016 presidential campaign to sow discord in the USA and damage Hillary Clinton.
Even without the busybody bots, fake news still spread at about the same rate and to the same number of people.
"When we removed all of the bots in our dataset, [the] differences between the spread of false and true news stood,"says Soroush Vosoughi, a co-author of the new paper and a postdoc at LSM whose PhD research helped give rise to the current study". And falsehoods are retweeted by unique users more broadly than true statements at every depth of cascade.
"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 Technology in Italy who tracked how the Higgs boson rumour spread on Twitter. They found that "fake news" sped through Twitter "farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information", according to the study in Thursday's journal Science. But we will have to look at the other side of the coin too, not only bots have played a major role in the activity, humans have played an equal role. On average, false information reaches 35 per cent more people than true news. He looked at Twitter accounts that mentioned or shared those stories. I do believe that this is a very serious problem, Aral says.
On the first count, Aral notes, the recognition that humans, not bots, spread false news more quickly suggests a general approach to the problem.
Out of all those news, Aral and his colleagues found out that political new were more likely to go viral and spread than any other news or stories.
"Falsehood was significantly more novel than the truth", Aral said.
Nyhan and Lazer said that while more fact-checking and education of people on how to tell fake from real can be helpful, the more effective solution will have to come from the social media platforms themselves.