Study finds false facts move faster than truth

No bots here

No bots here

But in the aftermath of the tragic events, he adds, "I realized that ... a good chunk of what I was reading on social media was rumors; it was false news". Responses to fake news were usually characterized by "surprise and disgust", while real news was responded to with "sadness, anticipation, and trust".

And in a particularly interesting finding, the researchers used software to remove automated bots from the data and concluded that the results were essentially the same.

"Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it". "People who share novel information are seen as being in the know". False information spread significantly further and faster than the truth across all categories of information, the researchers found.

"We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-co-ordination, misinformation campaigns and increasingly divisive echo chambers", tweeted Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey.

To conduct the study, the researchers tracked roughly 126,000 cascades of news stories spreading on Twitter, which were cumulatively tweeted over 4.5 million times by about three million people, from the years 2006 to 2017.

Human instincts may help explain the novelty value of fake news, but surely those notorious Twitter bots make the problem worse. On the other hand, humans seem to have an inclination for sharing false news rather than facts.

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'We must redesign our information ecosystem in the 21st century, ' write a group of 16 political scientists and legal scholars in an essay also published Thursday in Science. "This would be true whether social media existed or not", he added. "There is thus a risk that repeating false information, even in a fact-checking context, may increase an individual's likelihood of accepting it as true". True news takes six times longer to reach to 1500 people compared to false news.

Unsurprisingly, political content was the most popular, and researchers noted spikes in the spread of false political rumours during both the 2012 and 2016 US presidential elections.

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.

When it comes to Twitter's "cascades", or unbroken retweet chains, falsehoods reach a cascade depth of 10 about 20 times faster than facts. They found that the inaccurate stories are 70% more likely to be retweeted than legitimate content.

Gordon Pennycook, a Yale University psychology post-doc who contributed to an article accompanying the study, said Twitter's and Facebook's capacity to spread rumors is built into its DNA. Twitter provided support for the research and granted the MIT team full access to its historical archives.

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