Fake news is 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than real news. Then they tracked the re-tweets. Some humans would do so unwittingly, while others would do it deliberately.
Roy said he is used to seeing messy data results when doing research.
"Understanding how false news spreads is the first step toward containing it", the researchers wrote. And if we do filter based on anticipated emotional response, how do we do that while still respecting free speech and taking cultural differences into account?
Although bots certainly play a role in disseminating completely phony news - including the fictitious story that Hillary Clinton ran a sex-trafficking ring in the basement of a pizza shop - bots weren't responsible for the dramatic disparity between retweets of false versus real news.
For its study, the MIT team perused six fact-checking Web sites-snopes.com, politifact.com, factcheck.org, truthorfiction.com, hoax-slayer.com and urbanlegends.about.com-for common news stories and rumors those sites had examined.
The researchers looked at the top 0.01 percent of true and false rumor cascades and found that the false ones "diffused eight hops deeper into the Twittersphere than the truth".
Retweeting or liking a tweet is similar to voting for it, making it more likely to be seen (and retweeted again) by others. "False news spreaders tend to have fewer followers, follow fewer people, are less often verified, tweet less often and have been on Twitter for a shorter period of time", he explained. False news that spreads fast is considered more novel; that novel information is more likely to be retweeted.
The amount of false news on Twitter also continues to grow overall, and it tends to spike during important events, such as the United States presidential elections in 2012 and 2016. "I absolutely believe that we have a responsibility as citizens to be more educated about what is true and what is false and to take responsibility for the information that we're sharing", he says. An analysis of the words in the tweets suggested that false news instilled fear, disgust and surprise, whereas true news was more likely to arouse feelings including sadness, joy and trust.
False rumors have affected stock prices and the motivation for large-scale investments, the team said.
In one of the largest studies of its kind, MIT researchers examining thousands of fake news stories going back a decade on Twitter have determined that fake news is more likely to spread across the social network than factual information.
As we learn more about how and why false news spreads, we should test interventions to dampen its diffusion.
Humans are the worst: The researchers found that robots spread accurate news at the same rate as the fake stuff.
Lies and fake news spread faster and penetrate deeper than the truth on social media, a major new study has found.
The reason fake news spreads so well is it surprises people more.
Vosoughi, Roy and Aral used this framework to map the spread of information on Twitter since its creation in 2006 all the way through to previous year. In their explanation, "when information is novel, it is not only surprising, but also more valuable, both from an information theoretic perspective and from a social perspective". "The rise of fake news highlights the erosion of long-standing institutional bulwarks against misinformation in the internet age", one group wrote in Science magazine. "It's hard for me to put into a larger context how anxious to be", he added.