False news online travels faster than the truth

US study finds fake news spreads faster than real news

False news online travels faster than the truth

"False news is more novel, and people are more likely to share novel information", said Professor Sinan Aral, one of the study's co-authors.

And you can't blame bots; it's us, said the authors of the largest study of online misinformation.

"Falsehoods were 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than the truth", said the report, led by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT).

According the biggest study to date into fake news, the truth takes six times longer to be seen by 1,500 people on Twitter than misinformation.

Examining this "novelty hypothesis", the team found that "people respond to false news more with surprise and disgust", whereas true stories produced replies more generally characterised by sadness, anticipation, and trust.

The spread of false stories was more pronounced for political news than for news in the other categories.

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 US and damage Hillary Clinton.

They also want structural changes that aim to prevent the spread of fake news, calling for an interdisciplinary research effort that involves various social media platforms. "We aren't proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough". It specifically examined how rapidly fake news spreads on Twitter, and classified news as true or false by using information from six fact-checking organisations.

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By nearly all metrics, false cascades outpaced true ones. "The central concept of this paper is veracity", Aral said. The study authors aimed to be apolitical in distinguishing what was true or false.

The MIT team characterized a story's truth on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 being completely false. And falsehoods are retweeted by unique users more broadly than true statements at every depth of cascade. Twitter, however, remained a breeding pool for false information. She said it would "better be called viral deception. VD".

This graph shows how fake news spreads faster and further than real news.

The study was conducted by researchers at MIT, and published on Thursday in the journal Science.

The researchers dug deeper to find out what kind of false information travels faster and farther.

Psychology Prof Geoffrey Beattie from Edge Hill University in Lancashire, told the BBC there is a position of power associated with being someone who shares information that others have not heard before - regardless of whether or not it is true.

In particular, they looked at the likelihood that a tweet would create a "cascade" of retweets. Politifact traced a version of it back to Jonathan Swift in 1710.

Roy said the study results reminded him of the often-cited quotation that essentially says a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots - or trousers - on.

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