Social media apparently thrives on lies, especially Twitter. According to a massive new study, fake news on the social media network travels six times faster than truth and reaches far more people.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology analyzed every major contested news story in English from Twitter’s inception up to 2016, including about 126 thousand stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than a decade. Throughout this time, the study found that fake news spread through Twitter “farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information”.
According to the lead author of the study, Soroush Vosoughi, of MIT, who has studied fake news since 2013, false information “outperforms” true information and the reason may lie in human nature rather than social media bots.
The scientists said that the average fake news story takes about 10 hours to reach 1.500 Twitter users, while true information takes about 60 hours to reach the same number of users. This would mean that false information reaches 35 percent more people than true news, the study said.
In addition, researchers found that true stories rarely get retweeted to more than one thousand people while the top 1 percent of false stories reached as many as 100 thousand people.
When looking at how stories link from one user to another, the study revealed that deceitful information got to as many as 24 generations, while true ones barely spread to a dozen.
The concept of fake news has been debated and analyzed more extensively in recent months ever since evidence surfaced of Russia’s repeated attempts to spread disinformation on social media during the 2016 presidential campaign to damage Hillary Clinton.
While the researchers admitted that the study was funded by Twitter, the social media platform has not commented on the recent findings. However, the company did admit earlier this month that they need help from outside experts to better deal with the issue.
The study was published in the journal, Science.
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