Spreading “Fake News,” Science Says It Wasn’t Russian Bots

The spread of true and false news online by Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy, and Sinan Aral. (Science 09 Mar 2018: Vol. 359, Issue 6380, pp. 1146-1151 DOI: 10.1126/science.aap9559)


We investigated the differential diffusion of all of the verified true and false news stories distributed on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. The data comprise ~126,000 stories tweeted by ~3 million people more than 4.5 million times. We classified news as true or false using information from six independent fact-checking organizations that exhibited 95 to 98% agreement on the classifications. Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information. We found that false news was more novel than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share novel information. Whereas false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust. Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.

Real data science. The team had access to all the Twitter data and not a cherry-picked selection, which of course can’t be shared due to Twitter rules, or so say ISIS propaganda scholars.

The paper merits a slow read but highlights for the impatient:

  1. Don’t invest in bots or high-profile Twitter users for the 2018 mid-term elections.
  2. Craft messages with a high novelty factor that disfavor your candidates opponents.
  3. Your messages should inspire fear, disgust and surprise.

Democrats working hard to lose the 2018 mid-terms will cry you a river about issues, true facts, engagement on the issues and a host of other ideas used to explain losses to losers.

There’s still time to elect a progressive Congress in 2018.

Are you game?

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