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Fake news travels fast

Everyone knows that news travels fast. But now scientists have proved that fake news travels much faster. Six times as fast, in fact, if Twitter is anything to go by. In the largest study of its kind ever conducted, Sinan Aral of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, looked at 126,000 posts tweeted by three million people between 2006 and 2017. He fact-checked the stories against six independent organisations including PolitiFact and Factcheck, and the findings, which were published in the journal Science, were startling:

“What we found was scary,” says Aral. “False news travels farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than the truth in every category of information – many times by an order of magnitude.”

It takes six times longer for the truth to be seen by 1,500 people than it does for fake news, and this is down to the fact that a lie is 70% more likely to be shared on social media. The most viral fake news stories were political, although terrorism, health, finance and natural disasters also have a notable share ratio.

What is striking is that despite the scare mongering about Russian bots, the main culprits by a country mile are general users, sharing, tweeting and retweeting false stories. It would seem that we have no one to blame but ourselves for the rise and rise of fake news.