False Stories Spread Fast. So Do Some True Ones.

Lies spread six times faster.

Photographer: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Did you hear? Taylor Swift is doing a new album, consisting of her favorite Katy Perry songs — and despite their lengthy feud, Perry herself will be performing on the album!

OK, that’s not true. But a new study finds that by every measure, false rumors are more likely to spread than true ones. For those who believe in the marketplace of ideas and democratic self-government, that’s a big problem, raising an obvious question: What, if anything, are we going to do about it?

The study, conducted by Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy and Sinan Aral of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was based on a massive data set, consisting of all fact-checked rumor “cascades” that spread on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. All in all, there were about 126,000 such cascades, spread by about three million people more than 4.5 million times.


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