Oh look, Facebook is giving away $10 000 to some lucky folk who share a post.
Hey, you can win a free car here – just type in your preferred colour.
How about a free air ticket to a destination of your choice – just send this link to everyone in your WhatsApp contact list.
Yeah, you’ve either been one of the people who share this stuff or you’ve seen it going on – all scams, if you bother to do about three seconds of research.
Then there’s the spread of fake news, and sadly the situation is even worse than researchers at MIT first thought. The largest ever study of how fake news spreads, published yesterday, is a damning indictment of how we use social media.
This from the Atlantic:
The massive new study analyzes [sic] every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years—and finds that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor.
By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories.
“It seems to be pretty clear [from our study] that false information outperforms true information,” said Soroush Vosoughi, a data scientist at MIT who has studied fake news since 2013 and who led this study. “And that is not just because of bots. It might have something to do with human nature.”
Yeah, it has to do with the fact that people are too damn lazy to bother to do a little research of their own.
The stats on how fake news stories spread faster than actual news stories is alarming:
A false story reaches 1,500 people six times quicker, on average, than a true story does. And while false stories outperform the truth on every subject—including business, terrorism and war, science and technology, and entertainment—fake news about politics regularly does best.
Twitter users seem almost to prefer sharing falsehoods. Even when the researchers controlled for every difference between the accounts originating rumors—like whether that person had more followers or was verified—falsehoods were still 70 percent more likely to get retweeted than accurate news.
Lastly, why is everyone so keen to bang that retweet button?
First, fake news seems to be more “novel” than real news. Falsehoods are often notably different from the all the tweets that have appeared in a user’s timeline 60 days prior to their retweeting them, the team found.
Second, fake news evoked much more emotion than the average tweet. The researchers created a database of the words that Twitter users used to reply to the 126,000 contested tweets, then analyzed it with a state-of-the-art sentiment-analysis tool. Fake tweets tended to elicit words associated with surprise and disgust, while accurate tweets summoned words associated with sadness and trust, they found.
The Atlantic’s look inside that MIT study is in-depth and intense, so if you’re intrigued you can read more here.
You’d like to think that this may bring on some degree of introspection from Twitter users, but you wouldn’t bet on it.
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