A new study in Science quantifies the spread of Twitter rumors. Previous research tracked rumors after specific events, like the false information that swirled around the Boston Marathon bombing. In this more wide-ranging study, a team of researchers at MIT tracked falsehoods and truths using a database of every tweet written from 2006 to 2017. Bottom line: False news moves through Twitter “farther, faster, deeper and more broadly” than the truth. (Tweet it!)
As reported in The Washington Post, MIT professor Sinan Aral and colleagues observed that, “even the farthest-reaching true rumors rarely spread to more than 1,000 people. But the top 1 percent of falsehoods routinely had audiences of 1,000 to 100,000 people.” Politics got the most attention among true and false rumors, they discovered.
The study authors hypothesized that falsehoods contain more novelty than truth. To that end, they measured the “information uniqueness” of rumors and discovered that false rumors were more likely to contain new, but incorrect, information. It's easier to be novel when you’re unconstrained by reality,” Aral said.
Have you ever been seduced by a false Twitter rumor, or even retweeted it? Why do you think you gave it credence? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion