Nav: Home

On Twitter, false information travels farther and faster than the truth

March 08, 2018

An analysis of how true and false news stories spread on Twitter reveals that false news spreads substantially faster, and to far more people. Social media has created a boom in the spread of information, although little is known about how it has facilitated the spread of false information. Here, Soroush Vosoughi and colleagues analyzed the diffusion of verified true and false news stories via Twitter between 2006 and 2017. The data they analyzed included roughly 126,000 stories tweeted by 3 million people more than 4.5 million times. The stories were designated as true or false based on six independent fact-checking organizations that exhibited strong agreement on the classifications. In particular, they looked at the likelihood that a tweet would create a "cascade" of retweets. False information diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth across all categories of information, the authors report. Overall, falsehoods were 70% more likely to be retweeted than the truth. Whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1,000 people, the top 1% of false-news cascades routinely diffused to between 1,000 and 100,000 people. Of the various types of false news, political news was the most virulent, spreading at three times the rate of other false news topics. To probe whether Twitter users were more likely to retweet information that was considered "novel," Vosoughi et al. conducted an additional and rigorous analysis. Indeed, they report, false news that spreads fast is considered more novel; that novel information is more likely to be retweeted. In assessing the emotional content of tweets, they found that false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, whereas true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust. Lastly, when the authors used an algorithm to remove bots from their analysis, the results suggest that humans have a greater role than robots do in the dissemination of false news.

In a related Policy Forum, David Lazer et al. underscore the need to address the prevalence and sway of fake news, which they define as fabricated in­formation that mimics news content in form but not in organizational process or intent. (They prefer to use the term "fake" news as opposed to "false" news because the former term's "political salience draws attention to an important subject"). In particular, the spread of fake news has drawn much attention recently in a political context. In the U.S., political polarization has caused a dislike of the "other side," fostering an environment where fake news can attract a mass audience. The authors cite preliminary evidence quantifying the reach of fake news, with one conservative study estimating that the average American encountered between one and three stories from known publish­ers of fake news during the month before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. They also highlight the complexities of the human psyche, which prefers information that is familiar and supports one's own preexisting views, exacerbating the problem. To address the issue of fake news, the authors provide detailed recommendations on two key types of interventions - one that focuses on empowering individuals to evaluate the fake news they encounter, and a second that targets structural changes that aim to prevent exposing individuals to fake news. They call for an interdisciplinary research effort that involves various social media platforms, and for society at large to work to create a news ecosystem and culture that values and promotes truth.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related Social Media Articles:

Social media postings linked to hate crimes
A new paper in the Journal of the European Economic Association, published by Oxford University Press, explores the connection between social media and hate crimes.
How Steak-umm became a social media phenomenon during the pandemic
A new study outlines how a brand of frozen meat products took social media by storm - and what other brands can learn from the phenomenon.
COVID-19: Social media users more likely to believe false information
A new study led by researchers at McGill University finds that people who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19.
Stemming the spread of misinformation on social media
New research reported in the journal Psychological Science finds that priming people to think about accuracy could make them more discerning in what they subsequently share on social media.
Looking for better customer engagement value? Be more strategic on social media
According to a new study from the University of Vaasa and University of Cyprus, the mere use of social media alone does not generate customer value, but rather, the connections and interactions between the firm and its customers -- as well as among customers themselves -- can be used strategically for resource transformation and exchanges between the interacting parties.
Exploring the use of 'stretchable' words in social media
An investigation of Twitter messages reveals new insights and tools for studying how people use stretched words, such as 'duuuuude,' 'heyyyyy,' or 'noooooooo.' Tyler Gray and colleagues at the University of Vermont in Burlington present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on May 27, 2020.
How social media platforms can contribute to dehumanizing people
A recent analysis of discourse on Facebook highlights how social media can be used to dehumanize entire groups of people.
Social media influencers could encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines
Public health bodies should consider incentivizing social media influencers to encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines, say researchers.
Social grooming factors influencing social media civility on COVID-19
A new study analyzing tweets about COVID-19 found that users with larger social networks tend to use fewer uncivil remarks when they have more positive responses from others.
Using social media to understand the vaccine debate in China
Vaccine acceptance is a crucial public health issue, which has been exacerbated by the use of social media to spread content expressing vaccine hesitancy.
More Social Media News and Social Media Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Warped Reality
False information on the internet makes it harder and harder to know what's true, and the consequences have been devastating. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around technology and deception. Guests include law professor Danielle Citron, journalist Andrew Marantz, and computer scientist Joy Buolamwini.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.