Lies spread faster on social media



IT is a well-known fact that false news and rumors find their way to people faster than real news does. In my opinion, people these days selectively say and hear what they want and then share these ideas with others. It seems that no one wants to make an effort to reach what can be described as the truth. This behavior is no longer confined to the physical world and is prevalent in the virtual world of social media.

A recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that false news spreads on Twitter more quickly and is searched by people more than real news. The study focused on 126,000 false rumors and stories that spread over Twitter over a period of 11 years. Researchers found that false news was being forwarded by people rather than internet bots and they attributed this to the fact that false news is often sensational and unlikely to be true.

According to a BBC report, the most frequently reported issues were political in nature. This was followed by finance, business, science, entertainment, and terrorism related news. All of this confirms that political propaganda plays a big role in the dissemination of false news and explains why Al Jazeera and other media platforms of Qatar spread false information about the situation in the region. Comparing Al Jazeera’s Arabic and English content is an easy way to expose the false news that is disseminated by this outlet of propaganda.

“Fake news is often unusual, so people tend to share unfamiliar information,” said Cinan Aral, a co-author of the study. The team did not confirm whether the unusual nature of false news was the main force behind its popularity but added: “Fake news is often surprising compared to real news, which makes it more appealing.”

Perhaps the most important thing to mention, according to the findings of the study which was published in the journal Science, is that fake news attracts a high 70 percent participation rate. Real news takes 6 times longer to engage 1,500 people and is rarely shared by more than 1,000 people. Fake news on the other hands is often shared by more than 100,000 people.

Jeffrey Betty, professor of psychology at Edge Hill University in Lancashire, best summed up the appeal of fake news: “People are full of ordinary news, so things have to be more surprising or disgusting to attract attention.”