The Spread of True and False News Online

Peter Beshai and Soroush Vosoughi

S. Vosoughi, D. Roy, S. Aral. (2018). The spread of true and false news online. Science. Vol 359, Iss 6380. Mar 09 2018.


Abstract: 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  around 126K stories tweeted by approximately 3M people over 4.5M times. We classified news as true or false using information from six independent fact-checking organizations that exhibited 95-98% 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. While 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. 

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