Fake news can spread like wildfire and it’s more lethal than ever before in today’s digital age of instant virality. Twitter news stories are at the forefront of this influx.
According to an analysis by MIT, more than 4.5 million tweets were responsible for spreading fake news from 2006 to 2007. The shocking part? Fake news was spread much more efficiently and widely than authentic news! This news holds special significance after the US presidential election controversy which claimed that Russian twitter bots influenced the election result in favor of Donald Trump, a story which hit international news outlets like a storm!
After evaluating 126,000 original tweets and the fellow retweets that resulted out of them, researchers concluded that Twitter indeed has an unhealthy influx of fake news which effectively suppresses factual ones! The tweets that were considered focused on one of around 2,400 news stories that had been confirmed by one or multiple fact-checking organizations as fake.
It was also observed that original tweets are not as damaging to news culture as retweets are. Rumors spread like a virus. Whilst authentic news generates more original tweets, they aren’t spread nearly as fast and wide as fake news. An approximate 1600 people will retweet authentic news stories. On the contrary, fake news gets thousands upon thousands of retweets and has a whopping 70% more chance of being retweeted than authentic news.
The MIT study also found out that Twitter news stories, both genuine and fake, are often spread by computer programs. This means that bots are difficult to catch too since if they only were to post fake news they could easily be deleted. However, the study lacks depth. The actual content of these fake news tweets could not be analyzed which means that if a tweet from a legit account criticized or debunked any such news, they too will be considered as fake news.