MIT researchers just published the ultimate Twitter study regarding fake news.
Using the entire Twitter archive, they chose 126,000 stories and ran them through six fact-checking sites to classify them as true or false. Then they tracked the re-tweets.
They found a true story would reach as many as 1,000 people — about the number you could pack into a high school gym. But the top fake news stories reached up to 100,000 people. That’s a Dallas Cowboys game.
You can’t blame the Russian Twitter-bots. In fact, it turns out the bots spread as much true news as fake news because they can’t tell the difference. Choosing the bogus stories requires a thinking human, as it turns out.
And the reason we do it, according to the researchers, is to avoid being boring. Which is what you are if the only things you Tweet are real.
The MIT researchers say fixing this will not be easy.
But in this case, I think it would be pretty easy. MIT has all the data now. They know who the worst offenders are. Send the list to Twitter and get them kicked off. But, of course, Twitter won’t do that.
Instead, they’ll look for some cutting-edge software patch designed to ruthlessly target false Tweets. But which, with any luck, will never quite work.