Fake news travels six times faster on Twitter than real news: MIT study

WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Sep 16, 2020, 05.22 PM(IST)

Twitter Photograph:( Reuters )

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Do you believe everything you read on social media? Do you verify the content churned out to you across networking platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram?

Do you believe everything you read on social media? Do you verify the content churned out to you across networking platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram? If your answer is yes for the former question, and no to the latter, you need to step up!

A recent documentary on Netflix brought to light again the secretive nature of how these social media giants operate, and how manipulation of users is the driving business model for most of these services. Titled “The Social Dilemma”, it referred to a 2018 study done by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.

Social media as a manipulation agent

The study, which was then published in Science magazine becomes pertinent again as the role of social media in influencing elections, and misinformation surrounding the ongoing pandemic comes to light.

When the study had come out, a co-author of the study, Sinan Aral told CNN that they were “very surprised by the results”. Who wouldn’t be surprised to find out that a majority of the news they absorb is actually fake!

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The study found that fake news travels to Twitter users six times faster than real news. The study, which took two years to complete found that true news takes about six times longer to reach 1,500 people on Twitter when compared to false news.

The study claimed that false stories "diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information."

"I find it disturbing," Aral told CNN. 

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To ascertain this, researchers took into account stories and tweets circulating on Twitter between 2006 and 2017, and relied on six fact checking organisations to find out whether the story was true and false.

According to the study, false news about politics “travelled deeper and more broadly” when compared to other types of stores. These were also “more viral” than other content with false information. It reached 20,000 people thrice as fast as other types of information.

It also found how humans and bots spread false information at roughly the same rate. In fact, the study posits that humans are “more likely to spread it”.

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