The team took a look at data dating all the way back to 2006 when Twitter began, and followed trends all the way through 2017 - finding that fake news spread far more quickly than those that were assessed as truthful, and that the reach of these fake stories extended farther as well. Indeed, they report, false news that spreads fast is considered more novel; that novel information is more likely to be retweeted.
False stories were 70 percent more likely to be retweeted and spread at least six times as fast.
It also takes true stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as it does for false stories to reach the same number of people.
But the team says fake news spreads more than the truth because humans are more likely to pass it on. 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. "Although the inclusion of bots, as measured by the two state-of-the-art bot-detection algorithms we used in our analysis, accelerated the spread of both true and false news, it affected their spread roughly equally", the paper reads. (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"). Within the paper, researchers chose to refer to unfounded stories as "false news" as opposed to "fake". People can be manipulated to share knowledge even if it's false if they considered it new, surprising and useful.
Worryingly, however, the MIT researchers found that fake news spreads faster than the truth because humans, not bots, are more likely to retweet it, partly because the false rumors are created to be novel and viral. Unlike the MIT researchers-who avoided saying "fake news" and called the term "irredeemably polarized"-Baum, Lazer and their colleagues embraced it".
False information on the internet travels faster than the truth, researchers said Thursday.
The results of the study are quite startling.
Twitter and other social media companies such as Facebook have been under scrutiny by United States lawmakers and worldwide regulators for doing too little to prevent the spread of false content. Their truth was then verified through fact-checking websites, which have debunked fake news stories such as the Pope endorsing Donald Trump's presidential bid.
We urge the platforms to collaborate with independent academics on evaluating the scope of the fake news issue and the design and effectiveness of interventions. In the previous year, under increasing pressure from the US government, tech companies have lurched from policy to policy in an effort to stop fake news from populating their platforms.
That's when Vosoughi realized that "these rumors aren't just fun things on Twitter, they really can have effects on people's lives and hurt them really badly". And false news, it turns out, tends to be a lot more novel than the truth.
"Although we can not claim that novelty causes retweets or that novelty is the only reason why false news is retweeted more often, we do find that false news is more novel and that novel information is more likely to be retweeted", the researchers wrote.