False information travels 6 times faster than the truth on Twitter

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The effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends or financial information.

During President Obama's tenure, one false tweet claimed that he had been injured in an explosion. Instead, false news speeds faster around Twitter due to people retweeting inaccurate news items.

Some of Twitter's rumors are true. Falsehood diffused farther and faster despite these seeming shortcomings.

The study was borne out of examination of the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

In the new study, published Thursday, researchers at MIT analyzed 126,000 news stories posted on Twitter by three million English-speaking users over the last 10 years.

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The study authors aimed to be apolitical in distinguishing what was true or false.

From Russian "bots" to charges of fake news, headlines are awash in stories about dubious information going viral. "So the massive differences can not be because of bots", Aral said. "I say that boldly because I know it's hard to make a claim like that". They found that their judgments matched with facts about 95 percent of the time. Let us know in the comments. Now a group of scientists say they have found evidence Swift was right - at least when it comes to Twitter. From that link, the researchers backtracked through the retweet chain, which they called a cascade, to find the rumor's origin.

By nearly all metrics, false cascades outpaced true ones. 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.

"There is also a tendency for the people who spread this kind of misinformation or disinformation to ... hide the fake news payload in a story that otherwise seems quite logical and fact-based", he said.

A single account was responsible for starting 4,700 false rumors.

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Twitter provided the data for the study and funded the work. Researchers say it's humans spreading the bogus stories. Falsehoods were 70 per cent more likely to be retweeted than the truth, according to some estimates. This novelty is problematic in the Twitter realm because humans everywhere are already poor at discerning between truth and falsehood.

When on social networks, people gain attention by being the first to share something that is "previously unknown" piece of information, even if it could be false. It's pretty simple: "Think before you retweet", Roy said. Using accepted computerized methods for inferring emotional content from word use, we found that false stories inspired replies on Twitter expressing greater surprise than did true stories.

The latest issue of Science includes a study conducted by MIT debunking how far false news can spread online-as well as who's doing the sharing.

Until now, few studies have examined why this happens or evaluated how fakes news spreads across Twitter compared to true stories.

Blaming bots for the spread of misinformation online may not be an accurate assumption. The authors said these companies have an "ethical and social responsibility transcending market forces" to contribute to scientific research on fake news. "This suggests that false news spreads farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it".

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So while the researchers "cannot claim that novelty causes retweets" by itself, as they state in the paper, the surprise people register when they see false news fits with the idea that the novelty of falsehoods may be an important part of their propagation. "And you see now platforms like Facebook and others starting to do that", he says, "by reducing the visibility of accounts that are known to be spreading false news". When we diverge from the truth, we can pay a high price. "The next logical step is to ask, 'What can we do about it?'" said Vosoughi.

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