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Fake news spreads faster than the truth, and it’s all our fault

March 8, 2018

Humans are far more at fault than bots for spreading fake news on social media, according to a new study.

The news: MIT Media Lab researchers combed through 11 years of tweets, looking at roughly 126,000 stories tweeted by three million people, to figure out how news spreads. They found that fake news about all kinds of topics travels farther and faster than news that is accurate, but false political news spreads particularly far and wide.

Humans are the worst: The researchers found that robots spread accurate news at the same rate as the fake stuff. That makes them think humans are the reason misinformation gets around more than accurate news.

Why it matters: Social networks are desperately trying to clean up their acts to deal with persistent problems like fake news. (Twitter, in fact, is soliciting proposals to gauge the conversational “health” on its network.) These new results could be helpful in figuring out how to stanch the flow of misinformation online.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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