Consider the following...
A real news story leaves Denver headed for Fort Collins, about 65 miles north on I-25. At the same time, a fake news story leaves Denver headed for Colorado Springs, about 69 miles south on I-25. Assuming there's no traffic and both travel the speed limit, they both reach their destination at about the same time, right? Give or take a couple of minutes.
Now imagine that I-25 is the Twitter-sphere, with no traffic issues or speed limits. According to the results of a recent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in the time it takes the real news story to get from Denver to Fort Collins, the fake news story has passed through Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is on its way to Albuquerque.
To make another analogy, imagine a fake news story and a true news story are drag racing on a 1/4 mile track in the Twitter-sphere. By the time the fake news story crosses the finish line, the real news story has only gone about 75 yards.
The MIT study was co-authored by Sinan Aral, Soroush Vosoughi, and Deb Roy, researchers at the MIT Media Lab and Sloan School of Management. The study showed that it "takes true stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as it does for false stories to reach the same number of people." Aral, says, “We found that falsehood diffuses significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth, in all categories of information, and in many cases by an order of magnitude."
The complete study was published in the March 9 issue of Science magazine (pages 1146-1151)—contact us if you're interested in the article. The cover of the March 9 issue (pictured above) visualizes the difference in the speeds at which fake and real news stories spread. Peter Beshai, Design Technology at Cortico, says that the "cover depicts the breadth and depth of the spread of two different news stories through Twitter. The larger orange object (or cascade) represents a false news story, whereas the teal one represents a true news story." Science has more interesting visualizations of the the spread of stories in Twitter.
Check out the story and watch video interviews with the authors at the MIT News site.
So what can we do about this? How can we learn how to spot fake news and try to stop—or at least slow down—the spread of fake news? Here are a few ideas:
- Ask the Experts! Chat with us 24/7, send us an email anytime, or call 720.865.1363.
- Attend some of our Fake News classes and programs at the library.
- Take a look at the lesson plan from our How to Spot Fake News class.
- Check out the "How to Spot Fake News" poster from the International Federation of Library Associations (available in almost 40 different languages).
- Read the "How to Spot Fake News" article from FactCheck.org posted on November 16, 2016.
- Research stories on fact checking sites like Politifact, Snopes, Fact Checker (The Washington Post), and FactCheck.org.
Got questions? Ask Us or call Reference at 720.865.1363!