“The challenge is there are so many vulnerabilities we don’t yet understand and so many different pieces that can break or be gamed or manipulated when it comes to fake news”, Menczer said.
When they factored the bots into the study, the researchers found that the bots didn’t distinguish between fake news and the truth.
MIT Media Lab researchers combed through 11 years of tweets, looking at roughly 126,000 stories tweeted by three million people, to figure out how news spreads.
The scientists found that false information was about 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than accurate information and took only one-sixth of the time the truth took to travel. After the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, a fake story circulated that the teenage survivors now advocating for gun control were “crisis actors”, and research has shown that misinformation and conspiracy theories are deeply embedded in some of the most popular websites.
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. They “urge the platforms to collaborate with independent academics on evaluating the scope of the fake news issue and the design and effectiveness of interventions”.
When any type of news claim spreads on Twitter, it becomes a “rumor”. Then they tracked the re-tweets.
A rumor cascade begins on Twitter when a user makes an assertion about a topic in a tweet, which could include written text, photos, or links to articles online.
Not all false news is created equal.
“It kind of popped”, Roy said. And if we do filter based on anticipated emotional response, how do we do that while still respecting free speech and taking cultural differences into account? In fact, the team found that humans were chiefly responsible for misinformation being sent to the furthest reaches of the platform.
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.
Instead, they categorized news as either “true” or “false”.
They used a number of verification methods to decide what was considered true and what was false.
False information spreads much faster and farther than the truth on Twitter-and although it is tempting to blame automated “bot” programs for this, human users are more at fault.
Falsehoods commonly inspired replies on Twitter expressing surprise, fear and disgust, said the report. The authors point out that we tend to see people with novel or new information as being in-the-know-;that is, we see them like insiders. A new study by three MIT scholars has found that false news spreads more rapidly on the social network Twitter than real news does – and by a substantial margin.
But the team says fake news spreads more than the truth because humans are more likely to pass it on. Their findings, published this week in Science, explain a lot about how conspiracy theories (as well as misleading and downright incorrect information) drown out hard, clear facts on social media.
The genesis of the research was the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. But the top 1 percent of falsehoods routinely had audiences of 1,000 to 100,000 people, the study authors reported.