According to a just published study by Science, Twitter postings from 2006 to 2017 show that false news spreads faster and father than the truth, a phenomenon that may well have influenced the 2016 Presidential election and may threaten the coming 2018 Congressional elections.
"About 126,000 rumors were spread by ∼3 million people," the report says. "False news reached more people than the truth; the top 1% of false news cascades diffused to between 1000 and 100,000 people, whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1000 people. Falsehood also diffused faster than the truth."
In other words, falsehoods, lies and fake news spread on Twitter are up to 100 times more powerful than the truth -- or "not fake news."
"The degree of novelty and the emotional reactions of recipients may be responsible for the differences observed," the study observed.
I guess that tells us that we are suckers for sensational stories and rumors that we want to believe or find salacious or fit into the mindset into which we have been indoctrinated by whatever influences we prefer.
As the study said, "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."
Perhaps that explains the success of Fox News, for example, which habitually broadcasts falsehoods and half-truths to support their political bias. Fox News fans and other conservatives might say the same goes for the "mainstream" media, which President Trump continually derides as "fake news." But most of that, truth be told, is because Trump doesn't like the fact that the real media reports the facts that he, Donald Trump, has created.
"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," the study reported.
Looks like the Russians have figured this out, given the stories about their use of social media to influence the U.S. electorate. It's scary that the Trump administration has done nothing to protect the coming Congressional elections from similar tampering.
Guess fake news will continue unabated in Twitter-world, and our elections -- our democracy -- may well be affected much to the detriment of us all.