To understand how false news -- especially “fake” political news -- spreads, MIT Media Lab researchers Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy and Sinan Aral analyzed spread across Twitter between 2006 and 2017. Their findings, which were published in the March 9 edition of Science Magazine, conclude that falsehood diffuses faster than truth.
The chart above, delineates recent patterns of true, false and mixed rumors during Presidential news cycles.
“The data comprise 126,000 stories tweeted by 3 million people more than 4.5 million times,” the researchers note, adding, “Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information.”
By way of explanation, the researchers concluded that “false news was more novel than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share novel information. Whereas false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust.”
Interestingly, the researchers found the phenomenon is distinctly a human factor, noting that bots “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.”