Why false news spreads faster on social media

Why false news spreads faster on social media”

MIT Media Lab researcher and study lead author Soroush Vosoughi said people may be more likely to share false news because it is more surprising, the same way that sensationalized "click bait" headlines garner more attention.

For example, people who are likely to share information, but who are receptive to messages about whether an item is true or false, could act as "nodes of influence" to keep questionable news from spreading.

It takes real news stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as it does for false stories to reach the same number.

After removing bots, pieces of software which automatically tweet or retweet information, from the analysis using an algorithm, the team found the differences between the spread of true and fake news was the same.

It may come as no surprise in the era of "fake news", but false political stories were by far the most contagious falsehoods on the social media platform, easily outpacing false news about terrorism, science, natural disasters or urban legends. In assessing the emotional content of tweets, they found that false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, whereas true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust.

Compared with people who spread true news, those who spread false news were newer to Twitter, had fewer followers, followed fewer people and were less active with the social media platform.

Fake news spreads more rapidly than real news - at least on Twitter. Within the paper, researchers chose to refer to unfounded stories as "false news" as opposed to "fake". But this study suggests that the problem lies more in biology and human nature than in a controllable systemic or tech-based issue.

President Trump also regularly decries what he calls "fake news" in the media - although he and his team have a notoriously hard relationship with the truth. False news spread farther "despite these characteristics, not because of them", Aral said.

The results were published Thursday in the journal Science. They took a sample of 5,000 users known to share both true and false news stories and analysed their reaction to a random sample of 25,000 tweets.

So Aral's team chose to use the term "false news" instead.

In order to arrive at this conclusion regarding fake news, the MIT group ran tweets through six different fact-checking websites - including renowned debunking websites like Politifact and Snopes.

In the MIT study, the fake news tended to be novel, meaning news that Twitter users hadn't encountered before.

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 U.S. and damage Hillary Clinton. In the a year ago, under increasing pressure from the USA government, tech companies have lurched from policy to policy in an effort to stop fake news from populating their platforms. And falsehoods are retweeted by unique users more broadly than true statements at every depth of cascade.

The main impetus for the new research was the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

So far, Twitter has mostly resisted being "the arbiters of truth", said Nick Pickles, Twitter's head of public policy for the United Kingdom. And despite the evidence of the success of false tweets on Twitter, it's even harder to know what impact false tweets have had on elections, or on politics more generally.

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