Study: False stories travel faster than truth
Twitter loves lies. A new study finds that false information on the social media network travels six times faster than the truth and reaches far more people.
And you can’t blame bots; It’s us, say the authors of the largest study of online misinformation.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology looked at more than 126,000 stories tweeted millions of times between 2006 and the end of 2016 – before Donald Trump took office but during the combative presidential campaign.
They found that “fake news” sped through Twitter “farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information,” according to the study in Thursday’s journal Science.
“No matter how you slice it, falsity wins out,” said co-author Deb Roy, who runs MIT’s Laboratory for Social Machines and is a former chief media scientist at Twitter.
Twitter funded the study but had no say in the outcome, according to the researchers.
The scientists calculated that the average false story takes about 10 hours to reach 1,500 Twitter users, versus about 60 hours for the truth. On average, false information reaches 35 percent more people than true news.
While true news stories almost never got retweeted to 1,000 people, the top 1 percent of the false ones got to as many as 100,000 people.
And when the researchers looked at how stories cascade – how they link from one person to another like a family tree – false information reached as many as 24 generations, while true information maxed out at a dozen.