«

»

Mar 09 2018

They Needed A Study For This?

While scanning the news, I came across this article in the Associated Press by Seth Borenstein: Study finds false stories travel way faster than the truth. Since this is something I am quite certain is a fact, I had to read it just for laughs.

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 — 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,” according to the study in Thursday’s journal Science. [..]

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

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

And when the 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, while true information maxed out at a dozen. [..]

The MIT study took the 126,285 stories and checked them against six independent fact-checking sites — snopes.com, politifact.com, factcheck.org, truthorfiction.com, hoax-slayer.com and urbanlegends.about.com— to classify them 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. [..]

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. [..]

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. [..]

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.

Twitter funded the outcome, thankfully. It would have been a disgraceful wast of tax payers dollars. This had to be an easy assignment for the geniuses at MIT.

At the end of the article there is some misinformation that a famous quote about “lies traveling halfway around the world before the truth gets it boots, or pants, on.” Polifact attributes the quote to Jonathan Swift in 1710. Not quite. This is what Swift said about the matter:

“Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect: like a man, who hath thought of a good repartee when the discourse is changed, or the company parted; or like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead.”

The web site Brainy Quotes gives credit to Charles Spurgeon, an English reformed Baptist minister, who died in 1892. He was a prolific writer and much of his library can be found at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri.

Just remember when listening to or reading social media, the news or conversations, take everything with a bit of salt and check it before you repeat it as the truth.