Read More: New Scientist
An analysis of news stories tweeted by three million people between 2006 and 2017 shows that fake news spreads significantly more than the truth on social media. Sinan Aral and his colleagues at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) cross-checked the spread of 126,000 stories on Twitter against a database of stories fact-checked by six independent organisations, including Snopes, Politifact and Factcheck. “What we found was scary,” says Aral. “False news travels farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than the truth in every category of information – many times by an order of magnitude.” Truthful tweets took six times as long as fake ones to spread across Twitter to 1,500 people – in large part because falsehoods in the sample were 70 per cent more likely to be retweeted than the truth, even after accounting for account age, activity level and their number of followers. The most viral fake news was political in nature. Don’t blame it on the bots Despite the belief that armies of bots are sowing discord and spreading information, it is people, rather than automated accounts, most likely to share incorrect information. Aral and his colleagues analysed the diffusion of information with accounts they identified as bots both included and removed. Although bots did spread fake news, they also shared true news at the same rate.