Study finds that ‘fake news’ spreads faster than the truth

Study finds that ‘Fake News’ spreads faster than the truth
Twitter is one of the fastest spreaders of fake news. Photo: Jyvaskyla/Finland - July 2017: Twitter logo and speech balloon cut from cardboard against dark background, TeroVesalainen, Bigstock

A new study has found that it might not just be social media platforms and technology spreading the fake news.

A team of US scientists has conducted a study and found that fake news spread “farther, faster, deeper and more broadly” on Twitter than truthful news did from 2006 to 2017.

This is one of the biggest investigations into fake news on social media. This false news has been the cause of much debate since Donald Trump was elected as the US President in 2016 with much of the blame being placed on bots and other ‘malicious actors’.

A professor at Queensland’s University of Technology, Axel Bruns said that the results of the study would be greatly helpful and also aids in affirming the proverb, “a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on”.

The study was funded and aided by Twitter, however, Dr Soroush Vosoughi of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said that it was conducted independently.

The Study focused on all areas of news despite politics being one of the biggest discussion points.

126,000 “rumour cascades” – any tweet containing an image or comment about a story – were analysed by a team of US scientists that were shown to be spread over 4.5 million times by 3 million people.

Rumour spikes are shown to increase during periods of high political concern such as the US election.

According to Professor Bruns, the method used by the US scientists to uncover the amount and spread of fake news may have missed some more subtle measures.

He said that there is also a tendency for these people spreading fake news to include this disinformation in real stories so as to make it appear more real.

Of course, there has also been a lot of talk regarding the role that bots play in all of this. Many people have said that it is the bots that are to blame for the rapid spread of the fake news however the results of the report say otherwise.

Whilst the bots do increase the rate at which news is spread, there is little difference between real and fake news when it comes to this.

He continued on to say that whilst it was difficult to know the impact that bots had across each news category, bots were often used by publishers to tweet headlines automatically are certainly aren’t the ones who are spreading the fake news.

Professor Bruns said that he believes that whilst it is bots who make the news visible, “it’s humans that play a big role in passing it on.