Who’s to blame for fake news on the Internet?

Photo: Pixabay under CC0 Creative Commons

I’m Paula Santolaya, reporting live from SANTOLIVE in my virtual reality. Have comments, questions, or suggestions? Post them in the comments section or email me at info@santolive.com

A recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has indicated that fake news are 70 percent more likely to be shared than the real ones. To reach this conclusion, 126,000 stories that were retweeted 4.5 million times by about 3 million people were examined on Twitter during the period from 2006 to 2017. The researchers found that while the truth reached only 1,000 people, the lie and the falsehood reached more than 10,000 Twitter users.

At first, the experts thought that those responsible for such phenomenon should be bots (computer programs capable of performing repetitive tasks automatically and imitate human behavior). However, the study showed that fake news spread faster by flesh and blood users than by automatic profiles. This high traffic of information occurred especially on issues related to politics, terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends or finance.

Since people were directly responsible for spreading fake news, the researchers considered that they came from Twitter accounts with an important influence on fans. However, to their surprise, the profiles had few followers!

So, why did these tweets spread so quickly? Soroush Vosoughi, researcher and main author of the publication, explained that the false information is newer because it contains data that users have not read ever before and also causes emotional reactions. Therefore, it seems that novelty and the element of surprise are the key to the virality of fake news.

After the publication of this study, platforms like Google, Twitter and Facebook are committed to finding new ways to help and teach people to reduce the exchange of deceptions and inaccurate information.

So the fault does not come from the bot itself, but from ourselves! How many times do our own friends and family bombard us with annoying chain messages? It’s time to guide users on how to identify fake news to ensure the good health of conversations on the Internet. How about we start with a pre-Google search before sending them?

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