False stories travel way faster than the truth
False stories travel way faster than the truth This Oct. 26, 2016 file photo shows a Twitter sign outside of the company's headquarters in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File/Kim Siever/Flickr)
False stories travel way faster than the truth
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Twitter loves lies. A new study finds that false information on the social media network travels six times faster than the truth and reaches far more people.

And you can't blame bots. It's us, say the authors of the largest study of online misinformation.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology looked at more than 126,000 stories tweeted millions of times between 2006 and the end of 2016. This was before Donald Trump took office but during the combative presidential campaign. They found that "fake news" sped through Twitter "farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information." That's according to the study in Thursday's journal Science.

"No matter how you slice it, falsity wins out,” said co-author Deb Roy, who runs MIT's Laboratory for Social Machines. She is a former chief media scientist at Twitter.

Twitter funded the study but had no say in the outcome, according to the researchers.

The scientists calculated that the average false story takes about 10 hours to reach 1,500 Twitter users, but it takes about 60 hours for the truth to reach Twitter users. On average, false information reaches 35 percent more people than true news.

True news stories almost never got retweeted to 1,000 people. But the top 1 percent of the false ones got to as many as 100,000 people.

Researchers looked at how stories cascade, how they link from one person to another like a family tree. False information reached as many as 24 generations, but true information maxed out at a dozen.

Concern over bogus stories online has escalated in recent months due to evidence the Russians spread disinformation on social media during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

Social media companies have experimented with using computer algorithms and human fact-checkers to try to weed out false information and abuse online. Twitter earlier this month said it is seeking help from outside experts to better deal with the problem and Facebook this week announced a partnership with The Associated Press to identify and debunk false and misleading stories about the midterm elections.

"We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns and increasingly divisive echo chambers,” a tweet by Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey read. "We aren't proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough."

The MIT study took the 126,285 stories and checked them against six independent fact-checking sites. These sites included snopes.com, politifact.com, factcheck.org, truthorfiction.com, hoax-slayer.com and urbanlegends.about.com. They used the sites to classify stories as true, false or mixed. Nearly two-thirds were false, just under one-fifth were true and the rest were mixed.

The six fact-checking websites agreed with each other on classification at least 95 percent of the time, plus two outside researchers did some independent fact-checking to make sure everything was OK, said co-author Sinan Aral, an MIT management professor.

Lead author Soroush Vosoughi, an MIT data scientist, said there were three false stories that traveled the farthest and fastest. They were about a Muslim guard called a hero in the Paris bombings of 2015; an Iraq war veteran finishing as runner-up to Caitlyn Jenner for an ESPN courage award ; and an episode of "The Simpsons" that had a story line in 2000 about a Trump presidency. (It was in 2015.)

University of Pennsylvania communications professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a co-founder of factcheck.org, had problems with the way the study looked at true and false stories. The MIT team characterized a story's truth on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 being completely false. Factcheck.org, Jamieson said, looks more at context and does not label something either true or false.

She also suggested that calling this bogus information "false stories" does not capture how malignant it is. She said it would "better be called viral deception."

The researchers looked at obvious bots — automated accounts — and took them out. While the bots tweeted false information at a higher rate than humans, it wasn't that much of a difference, and even without bots, lies still spread faster and farther, Roy said.

David Lazer, a political and computer scientist at Northeastern University wasn't part of the study but wrote an accompanying report. He praised the MIT research but said the scientists may have missed a lot of bots and cyborgs — sort of in-between humans. His ongoing, not-yet-published research has found that about 80 percent of false stories come from just one-tenth of 1 percent of users.

The researchers dug deeper to find out what kind of false information travels faster and farther. False political stories — researchers didn't separate conservative versus liberal — and stuff that was surprising or anger-provoking spread faster than other types of lies, Aral said.

"Falsehood was significantly more novel than the truth," Aral said. "It's easy to be novel when you make things up."

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.

"The more strange and more sensational the story sounds, the more likely they are going to retweet," Kahan said.

Nyhan and Lazer said that while more fact-checking and education of people on how to tell fake from real can be helpful, the more effective solution will have to come from the social media platforms themselves.

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween78/false-stories-travel-way-faster-truth/

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is this issue a cause for concern?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (97)
  • IndiaM-fitz
    10/01/2018 - 06:36 p.m.

    This issue is a cause for concern because, if you’re online you don’t know what’s true or not. If the false stories travel faster, more people will believe that and no one will no the truth any more. People could also use fake stories to sway political opinions. If they don’t like a politician, the could make up as many bad things about them as they want, or vice versa. There’s not much anyone can do to stop it. You can’t erase what’s on the internet.

  • BalemY-fitz
    10/01/2018 - 06:47 p.m.

    This issue is a cause for concern because people might act on false information before they read the truth. Like for example what if the president acts on a false statement and it starts a wold war 3. I’m not saying the truth comes out to longer than inaccurate all the time, but people receive the truth way to slow. This is an unacceptable false to truth ratio, maybe in the future we can change this ratio. What I’m wondering is what are we doing about this problem.

  • NarainD-fitz
    10/01/2018 - 07:06 p.m.

    It’s a concern because people rely on the internet and when someone online tells a lie people believe it and spread the lie to people they know hwho spread it even farther. Also people like making rumors just to see what happens and people believe them and spread them. It makes it harder to believe what you here. You should check what facts are behind the article you read befor you believe it.

  • DhruvaB-fitz
    10/01/2018 - 09:00 p.m.

    I think that the concern about this particular topic is that at the time, false information has a greater rate of "reaching" the audience on social media than actual true information. According to the article, they stated that it took 10 hours to reach 1,500 people with false stories while it took about 60 hours just to reach people on twitter. It may take longer but some true stories never reach 1,000 users! On average, false stories reach 35% more people than true stories do and if we don't do something, it'll surely rise. There is also a portion of the false information that's provided by bots and cyborgs, which can easily outnumber the number of posts that true stories post since true stories come from humans. If we don't do something about the issue now, it can easily elevate into a chaotic situation where we can't even tell which social media posts are true or not and trust me, you do not want that. If I'm going to be honest, a majority of the people I know take news from social media instead of real news sites(like CNN) because of the conveinience to being able to open up their accounts, check their posts and responses, and maybe find news while scrolling through the app. The effort that Twitter and Facebook are giving is good but they also need to inform people on how to know if an article is fake or real instead of being solely reliant on technology like when the article states, "While more fact-checking and education of people on how to tell fake from real can be helpful, the more effective solution will have to come from the social media platforms themselves" (Para. 23). These fact-checking skills and education about how to tell fake stories from real is an important skill anyways and having it is already a yellow light to this issue.

  • JanayaR-fitz
    10/02/2018 - 09:57 a.m.

    This issue is a cause of concern because ´´Under one-fifth was true the rest was mixed. With that quote we never know what is really happening in the world and we don´t know whats true.most of the people today rely on information. Most people today like to be on social media and get information even if that information is not true.

  • AllyssaS-fitz
    10/02/2018 - 10:01 a.m.

    The summary of the article is that “False Stories travels way faster than the truth” it’s like saying that once someone post something online about a celebrity or other things people will start believing it because it’s online. Some people think it’s a automatic account that makes all this up. People dug deeper and deeper to find who do all this stuff.

  • IzzyP-fitz
    10/02/2018 - 03:37 p.m.

    This is a cause for concern because people don’t often fact check what they read and sometimes certain fake news stroies can be dangerous. People will randomly quote things they read online without knowing its false and thourougly continuing to spread the fake news.

  • SimmonaF-fitz
    10/02/2018 - 03:55 p.m.

    I think it’s shocking how the false information travels faster and further than the correct information. I think it’s more concerning when it’s public or a bigger problem like the election with Russia. People believe in false information more than they believe correct information because it’s more drama and it can be more interesting to where it can lead to. It says that false politics and anger provoking lies spread faster than other lies. I also learned that bots are used to spread lies on social media and get spread to over 100,000 people very quickly.

  • AdelaidaTY-fitz
    10/02/2018 - 04:57 p.m.

    After reading this I would be concerned because the false information are getting to people much more faster the the true information. Since the false information is faster to get to people, I think people will tend to believe the false one more than the truth. The reason why is because they read it first so when they read the false one will be the truth for us and the truth will be the false one. Also people can get confused because there so that are mix so they would be so confused. I was surprised when I read this because I thought everything was the truth but looks like it wasn’t.

  • QuinnC-fitz
    10/02/2018 - 05:29 p.m.

    This issue is a huge cause of concern because almost everyone I know gets some news from social media. If 1/3 of 126,285 are true that means all of the people reading and retweeting these story’s and people who get these retweets are misinformed. The article stated that even without bots the story’s are still getting very far very fast. This issue also misinforms people about important things like the Russians spreading fake news. This is a very hard topic to resolve because these apps are very hard to restrain from people and they can’t check everything people post.

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