An MIT study published Thursday in Science Magazine shows fake news on Twitter spreads six times faster than the truth.
Scientists studied tweets from 2006 up until 2017 that proclaimed fake news stories. In total, about 126,000 stories tweeted by some 3 million users were used for the study and verified as fake news by six different fact-check organizations.
As the abstract states, fake news stories spread “significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information.” Even more interestingly, findings show that political fake news, such as stories about “terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information” saw more share success.
The study also found that fake news stories “inspired fear, disgust, and surprise,” while real news stories “inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust.”
People are more ready and willing to share stories that spark the interest of followers and friends. Scary, disgusting, and surprising stories inevitably capture the attention of more people than sad, joyful, and honest stories.
The final statistics show that it took “the truth about six times as long as falsehood to reach 1500 people and 20 times as long as falsehood” to “cascade,” or spread new information. Between 1,000 and 100,000 Twitter users, real news stories only reached about 1,000, or 1 percent.