Examining data from as far back as 2006, a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study, published Thursday in the journal Science, has shown that false news is significantly more likely to be retweeted by Twitter users than factual stories—a whopping 70 percent more likely. Furthermore, the study found that humans are indeed responsible for this distressing slant—not bots as is often believed.
What’s the saying? “A lie can travel around the world while the truth is still putting it’s shoes on”— Jeff (@carry_the_flag) March 8, 2018
The study was undertaken because of mounting concern over how false news could negatively impact our society, particularly in relation to politics and the economy. Sinan Aral, co-author of the study, and professor at MIT's Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, was troubled by the study's findings. "There are real world and potentially negative consequences if decisions are going to be made based off falsity," he said in an interview.
It appears from what I see that people have no Problem excepting total BS over the Truth ( people just won’t accept or like the truth)— JR (@American2Jr) March 8, 2018
The study uses the term "false" news rather than "fake" because of how easily politicians throw the latter term around. "Politicians use the term fake news to describe stories they just don’t like," Aral explained.
This 2016 election cycle has demonstrated that in glorious fashion. I propose a new study to understand how to reprogram to accept truths.— MC Szczesny (@MCSzczesny) March 9, 2018
Data for the study was comprised of 126,000 stories tweeted by 3 million people more than 4.5 million times. Six independent fact-checking organizations such as Snopes.com were used to verify if the news was true or false.
The New York Times summed up the findings of the study:
False claims were 70 percent more likely than the truth to be shared on Twitter. True stories were rarely retweeted by more than 1,000 people, but the top 1 percent of false stories were routinely shared by 1,000 to 100,000 people. And it took true stories about six times as long as false ones to reach 1,500 people.
It’s easier for people to lie than tell the truth. It’s sad but true.— T Guy (@acman2k6) March 8, 2018
Almost all people do this, from POTUS all the way down to the homeless people.
As for the bots, the study concluded, "Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots 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."
Jonathan Swift's quote emblazoned on the walls of Trinity college: “Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect..." Some things never change; but lies fly faster now.— Liz Sufit (@LizSDVM) March 9, 2018
Possibly the most disheartening discovery made in the study was that humans appear to prefer false news because of its novelty and how it makes them feel when they read it.
According to the study:
We found that 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.
This isn't a surprise considering what tweets are popular. Give the public salacious details or someone being "wronged" & they won't care if it's true or not, as long as it has a hashtag. Herd mentality & group think or un-think, more accurately.— 🍀Lucky🍀 Flirt Gamer (@NFlirtGamer) March 8, 2018
We're feeling Zorbane here:
The takeaway: Think before you tweet.