And bots aren't to blame

False News Travels Farther, Faster Than The Truth, MIT Study Finds

They tracked approximately 126,000 cascades, or unbroken retweet chains, of news stories on Twitter, accounting for a total of 4.5 million tweets by about 3 million people, from 2006 to 2017.

In a paper published by MIT, researchers said that it is not even the bots that are designed specifically to disseminate inaccuracies that spread most of the fake news.

Their analysis shows that true news rarely spread to more than 1,000 people, but the top 1 per cent of false news could spread to as many as 100,000.

"We've got a lot of media reports and testimony in front of both houses of Congress talking about how important bots are in the spread of false news", Aral says, but humans are more often the ones sharing and spreading the lies.

"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 paper reads.

The study also found that fake news stories "inspired fear, disgust, and surprise", while real news stories "inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust".

The reason fake news spreads so well is it surprises people more. It could be, for example, that labeling news stories, in much the same way we label food, could change the way people consume and share it. They found that "fake news" sped through Twitter "farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information", according to the study in Thursday's journal Science.

Fake news has, of course, been around in one form or another since the dawn of human history.

President Trump also regularly decries what he calls "fake news" in the media - although he and his team have a notoriously hard relationship with the truth.

We generally think that bots distort the types of information that reaches the public, but-in this study at least-they don't seem to be skewing the headlines toward false news, he notes.

The team says tech companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google have an "ethical and social responsibility transcending market forces" to aid scientific research on cyber misinformation.

While the political repercussions of fake news are quite obvious, the phenomenon has affected various other discussions. In the US, political polarization has caused a dislike of the "other side", fostering an environment where fake news can attract a mass audience.

The genesis of the research was the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

"What we want to convey most is that fake news is a real problem, it's a tough problem, and it's a problem that requires serious research to solve", said co-author Filippo Menczer, a professor at Indiana University's School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering.

Some of these sites are readily available for everyday use which include,,,,, and It is hard to know for sure, because Twitter is one of the few platforms that shares the relevant data with the public. In other words, a false tweets were more likely to hop, via retweets, from one user to another to another. "We have some data from Twitter, that's what we are studying and other people are studying, but the other platforms are more closed".



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