A Tweet In Time

Psychology Finally Has an Explanation for Why False Stories Spread Like Fire on Twitter

Published on: Mar 9, 2018

If the past year or two has reaffirmed anything for us, it’s that you can’t believe everything you read, particularly on social media. Now experts say they’ve pinned down just how bad false stories are on Twitter, digging deep into the psychological elements fueling their rapid spread.

Research led by Soroush Vosoughi and published in the journal Science used six independent fact-checking organizations (e.g., Snopes, Politifact) to look at the spread of roughly 126,000 stories verified as either false or true between 2006 and 2017. When they analyzed the Twitter archive for mentions of the verified stories, tracing the way the information spread, they found that true news was lucky if it spread to more than 1,000 people. False stories, on the other hand, spread to as many as 100,000. It wasn’t just politics that had a problem, either. False stories spread faster than truth in every information category.

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