Fake news spreads faster and further on Twitter than true stories

Shawn Knight

Posts: 12,297   +120
Staff member

Fake news has been a hot topic ever since the presidential election but according to one recent analysis, the issue has persisted for far longer than most realize.

An analysis of more than 4.5 million tweets and retweets from 2006 through 2017 shows that inaccurate news stories spread faster – and further – on Twitter than true stories.

Researchers arrived at this conclusion after examining around 126,000 tweet cascades – families of tweets consisting of one original tweet and every retweet spawned from it. The tweet cascades in question focused on one of around 2,400 news stories that had either been verified or debunked by at least one fact-checking organization.

In general, researchers found that discussions of false stories typically start from fewer original tweets. Some of their retweet chains, however, managed to reach tens of thousands of users while true news stories never spread beyond more than about 1,600 people. All things considered, fake news was found to be about 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than true stories.

Also of interest is the fact that true stories took about six times longer to reach the first 1,500 people compared to false stories.

Interestingly enough, data also indicates that computer programs – bots – spread true and false news about equally which suggests humans are primarily to blame for the spread of fake news.

Critically, the study didn’t fully inspect the contents of all posts and retweets. As such, it’s entirely possible that some people retweeted a fake news post and added a comment to debunk it.

Nevertheless, it offers a good first step in understanding the issue. “We’re barely starting to scratch the surface on the scientific evidence about false news, its consequences and its potential solutions,” said Sinan Aral, an expert on information diffusion in social networks at MIT and co-author of the study.

Second photo via Asife, Shutterstock

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psycros

Posts: 3,127   +3,227
"Interestingly enough, data also indicates that computer programs – bots – spread true and false news about equally which suggests humans are primarily to blame for the spread of fake news."

But..but..the news media said it was Russian bots doing most of it..

LOL, ok, let's be real for a sec: we all know that people will repost stuff that (a) they find personally amusing (b) they think certain other friends will find funny or interesting and (c) anything that reinforces their established beliefs. Its that last one which is the problem. Fake news has become the new spearphishing, with partially or semi-falsified stories aimed directly at those who are most likely to bite. And, thanks to Facebook and the rest of the data mongers, your personal profile is cheap and getting cheaper all the time. ANYONE can buy a digital target with your face on it and throw all the marketing and fake news at it they like.
 

seeprime

Posts: 460   +495
Who decides what is fake news? I checked on a story yesterday about a stopped high school bombing in Utah. The potential bomber said he was supporting ISIS. Fox and other conservative web sites covered it. CNN says nothing. Instead, the headline was about trouble in the white house. I find this very bothersome as CNN used to be excellent. Where is the real news these days?
 

Ultraman1966

Posts: 128   +42
Who decides what is fake news? I checked on a story yesterday about a stopped high school bombing in Utah. The potential bomber said he was supporting ISIS. Fox and other conservative web sites covered it. CNN says nothing. Instead, the headline was about trouble in the white house. I find this very bothersome as CNN used to be excellent. Where is the real news these days?
And what makes you think that Fox news is trustworthy if other stations don't corroborate with their account? Isn't that an example of your confirmational bias preferring to read news that you think sounds more plausible?
 

pawel04

Posts: 86   +92
Who decides what is fake news? I checked on a story yesterday about a stopped high school bombing in Utah. The potential bomber said he was supporting ISIS. Fox and other conservative web sites covered it. CNN says nothing. Instead, the headline was about trouble in the white house. I find this very bothersome as CNN used to be excellent. Where is the real news these days?
Google
 
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senketsu

Fake news? What kind of wording is this? How about lies, propaganda, deception and sometimes simply error (someone says something, it gets repeated and so on till everyone thinks it's true).
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 5,243   +3,335
Fake news? What kind of wording is this? How about lies, propaganda, deception and sometimes simply error (someone says something, it gets repeated and so on till everyone thinks it's true).
"Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see." - Ben Franklin
 
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wiyosaya

Posts: 5,243   +3,335
"Fake News" is a moniker used to represent the truth in a light that favors those to whom it refers.
 

MonsterZero

Posts: 585   +336
Who decides what is fake news? I checked on a story yesterday about a stopped high school bombing in Utah. The potential bomber said he was supporting ISIS. Fox and other conservative web sites covered it. CNN says nothing. Instead, the headline was about trouble in the white house. I find this very bothersome as CNN used to be excellent. Where is the real news these days?
Well there you go, we obviously need to ban bombs now, then lets ban schools while we're at it because you can never be too cautious. let's just ban guns, and ban news, ban, ban, ban, ban, ban, ban, BAN. EVERYTHING IS BANNED!