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Fake News Does Much, Much Better on Twitter Than Real News - So We're All Doomed

Fake news remains a serious problem, and we have only ourselves to blame.

That's the finding of a new study published in Science by researchers at MIT. The researchers examined the spread of 126,000 news stories on Twitter between 2006 and 2013, and they verified the stories by consulting trusted fact-checking websites.

The results were not good. They found that false stories are 70 percent more likely than true ones to be retweeted. False stories also spread six times faster. 

“We found that falsehood defuses significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth, in all categories of information, and in many cases by an order of magnitude,” said Sinan Aral, an MIT professor and co-author of the study.

Unfortunately, we can't blame the robots.

“When we removed all of the bots in our dataset, [the] differences between the spread of false and true news stood,” said Soroush Vosoughi, a post-doctoral researcher and Aral's co-author.

Finding that false information has a propensity to spread quickly is bad enough, but it gets worse. Fake news about politics—the stuff that divides people and concerns vital issues of public policy and social trust—was the most likely to be shared.

Why are we more likely to spread nonsense than truth? The researchers have some speculations.

“False news is more novel, and people are more likely to share novel information,” said Aral. "People who share novel information are seen as being in the know.”

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