On Twitter, False Information Travels Farther And Faster Than The Truth. Really.

By Lisa M. Krieger
The Mercury News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The new analysis offers high-tech proof of that age-old axiom: “A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.”

The Mercury News

Call it the curse of the Internet age: Lies spread farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than the truth.

In the first detailed analysis of how misinformation spreads through the Twittersphere, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that false news is 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than the truth.

It takes the truth about six times as long as a falsehood to reach 1500 people, they discovered.

Don’t blame the bots. Contrary to conventional wisdom, we’re the ones spreading all the bad stuff, according to the analysis. That’s likely because falsehoods are more novel and click-y than the truth, and we’re more likely to share what’s new.

The research, published Thursday in the journal Science, analyzed about 126,000 stories tweeted by about 3 million people. Twitter provided funding and access to the data.

Misinformation has always been our enemy, since the days when hucksters sold so-called snake oil from their carts.
But social media serves as the currents in which false and misleading news is swept far and wide.

The new analysis offers high-tech proof of that age-old axiom: “A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.”

“For us, this is one of the most important issues facing social media today,” said Sinan Aral of the Media Lab of MIT’s Sloan School of Management, who conducted the research with Soroush Vosoughi and Deb Roy.

“We find false news travels far faster further than the truth in every category of information – sometimes by an order of magnitude,” he said. “This has very important effects on our society, our democracy, our politicians, our economy.”

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