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Twitter Spreads Lies and Conspiracy Faster Than Facts, Decade-Long Study Demonstrates

March 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

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An MIT team analyzed 126,000 tweets and threads with millions of views. But Twitter isn't unique.

The dark side of human nature is dominating the way politics is portrayed on social media, according to an unprecedented new study in Science that confirmed suspicions innuendo and conspiracies are outracing more humdrum facts and truth-telling on Twitter.

The Twitter study was conducted by a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and MIT Media Lab. It analyzed a decade of Twitter posts, focusing on 126,000 examples of false news spread by 2 million to 3 million people. The study noted how rumor spreads much faster than truth, and claims human nature, abetted by algorithms fanning those reflexes, is to blame.

“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,” the study authors found. “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. Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots [fabricating online personas] 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.”

How much faster do rumors and false news spread on Twitter?

“False news reached more people than the truth; the top 1% of false news cascades diffused to between 1,000 and 100,000 people, whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1,000 people,” the study said. “Falsehood also diffused faster than the truth. The degree …read more


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