False information – or fake news – travels around Twitter six times quicker than true stories, researchers have suggested.
Three scholars from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology analysed the spread of more than 126,000 stories shared on the social media site over the decade to 2016.
They found falsehoods spread ‘significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth, in all categories of information, and in many cases by an order of magnitude’, according to professor Sinan Aral.
He added: ‘False news is more novel, and people are more likely to share novel information.
‘People who share novel information are seen as being in the know.’
Other findings from the study, which is published in the journal Science, included that fake news stories are 70% more likely to be retweeted than true stories are.
The researchers also found it takes true stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as it does for false stories to reach the same number of people.
The stories involved in the study were retweeted 4.5 million times by three million accounts, with researchers then checking their veracity through six-fact checking organisations.
The study also found it was humans, rather than automated machines, which were primarily responsible for disseminating the false information.
Mr Aral said: ‘Now behavioural interventions become even more important in our fight to stop the spread of false news.
‘Whereas if it were just bots, we would need a technological solution.’