(March 9) Science today published the largest-ever longitudinal study of the spread of false news online.
Three MIT researchers, Soroush Vosoughi and Deb Roy of the Media Lab and Sinan Aral of the Sloan School of Management, investigated all the true and false news stories verified by six independent fact checking organizations that were distributed on Twitter from 2006 to 2017.
The researchers studied approximately 126K cascades on Twitter about contested news stories tweeted by 3 million people over 4.5M times.
The researchers found that false news travels farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than the truth online in all categories.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the study found that false news spreads more quickly than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.
Falsehoods were 70% more likely to be retweeted than the truth, even when controlling for the account age, activity level and number of followers and followees of the original tweeter, as well as whether the original tweeter was a verified user.