10 March, 2018
And the reason we do it, according to the researchers, is to avoid being boring.
So Aral's team chose to use the term "false news" instead. To probe whether Twitter users were more likely to retweet information that was considered "novel", Vosoughi et al. conducted an additional and rigorous analysis. It only means that the claim in the tweet is inaccurate.
The researchers looked at 126,000 "rumor cascades" spread by about 3 million people. Vosoughi remains skeptical, though, and said that he thinks these interventions will influence only a small number of people. These accounts, either partially or fully automated, have been a key tool in helping to spread misinformation and manipulate people. They found that the average false story takes about 10 hours to reach 1,500 Twitter users, versus about 60 hours for the truth. The truth, conversely, hardly ever spread to more than 1,000 people. "The result was a sample of rumor cascades whose veracity had been agreed on by these organizations between 95 and 98 percent". Instead, the researchers report, "there is no correlation between the degree to which the American public finds a source "reliable" and the fraction of its verified stories which are true" (as measured by Politifact).
Not all false news is created equal. They want that because they know that readers, customers and investors view companies as more trustworthy when the content is true. In the USA, political polarization has caused a dislike of the "other side", fostering an environment where fake news can attract a mass audience. Also, the time it took for a true rumor cascade to reach a depth of 10 was almost 10 times longer than the time it took for a false rumor cascade to reach a depth of 19. Coming in second were cascades about urban legends, followed by ones about business, terrorism, science, entertainment and natural disasters. They also found fake news is becoming more prevalent and spikes around USA presidential elections.
It's no surprise that political news was the most popular category to spread fake rumours. "It's important to understand the true impact of bots, because that will affect how we deal with the spread of false news", he says.More news: US Asks Qualcomm to Delay Board Meeting for Review of Broadcom Deal
However, even if a one-size-fits all solution exists, the study makes it clear that the human propensity for salacious gossip will hinder any efforts to combat misinformation. Overall, falsehoods were 70% more likely to be retweeted than the truth.
The researchers also say false stories caused surprise, fear and disgust. True news inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust.
Using techniques to identify bots, they determined that software-run accounts spread falsehoods and truths equally. Removing rumor cascades that started with bots did not change the patterns that propelled false news further and wider than true news. The situation may seem bleak, but there's nothing to gain by ignoring it.
False news (which is the researchers' preferred term, as opposed to fake news) of a political nature was found to disseminate more widely than other topics.
That fits perfectly with previous research on the psychology of fake information, said Yale University's Dan Kahan and Dartmouth College's Brendan Nyhan, scientists who study the phenomenon.