Study finds false stories travel way faster than the truth

Published: Thursday, March 08, 2018 @ 2:03 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 08, 2018 @ 2:02 PM

            FILE - This Oct. 26, 2016 file photo shows a Twitter sign outside of the company's headquarters in San Francisco. A new study published Thursday, March 8, 2018, in the journal Science shows that false information on the social media network travels six times faster than the truth and reaches far more people. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu), File
FILE - This Oct. 26, 2016 file photo shows a Twitter sign outside of the company's headquarters in San Francisco. A new study published Thursday, March 8, 2018, in the journal Science shows that false information on the social media network travels six times faster than the truth and reaches far more people. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu), File

Twitter loves lies. A new study finds that false information on the social media network travels six times faster than the truth and reaches far more people.

And you can't blame bots; it's us, say the authors of the largest study of online misinformation.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology looked at more than 126,000 stories tweeted millions of times between 2006 and the end of 2016 — before Donald Trump took office but during the combative presidential campaign. They found that "fake news" sped through Twitter "farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information," according to the study in Thursday's journal Science .

"No matter how you slice it, falsity wins out," said co-author Deb Roy, who runs MIT's Laboratory for Social Machines and is a former chief media scientist at Twitter.

Twitter funded the study but had no say in the outcome, according to the researchers.

The scientists calculated that the average false story takes about 10 hours to reach 1,500 Twitter users, versus about 60 hours for the truth. On average, false information reaches 35 percent more people than true news.

While true news stories almost never got retweeted to 1,000 people, the top 1 percent of the false ones got to as many as 100,000 people.

And when the researchers looked at how stories cascade — how they link from one person to another like a family tree — false information reached as many as 24 generations, while true information maxed out at a dozen.

Concern over bogus stories online has escalated in recent months because of evidence the Russians spread disinformation on social media during the 2016 presidential campaign to sow discord in the U.S. and damage Hillary Clinton.

Social media companies have experimented with using computer algorithms and human fact-checkers to try to weed out false information and abuse online. Twitter earlier this month said it is seeking help from outside experts to better deal with the problem. And Facebook this week announced a partnership with The Associated Press to identify and debunk false and misleading stories about the midterm elections.

"We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns and increasingly divisive echo chambers," tweeted Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey. "We aren't proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough."

The MIT study took the 126,285 stories and checked them against six independent fact-checking sites —,,,, and— to classify them as true, false or mixed. Nearly two-thirds were false, just under one-fifth were true, and the rest were mixed.

The six fact-checking websites agreed with each other on classification at least 95 percent of the time, plus two outside researchers did some independent fact-checking to make sure everything was OK, said co-author Sinan Aral, an MIT management professor.

Lead author Soroush Vosoughi, an MIT data scientist, said the three false stories that traveled the farthest and fastest were about a Muslim guard called a hero in the Paris bombings of 2015; an Iraq war veteran finishing as runner-up to Caitlyn Jenner for an ESPN courage award ; and an episode of "The Simpsons" that had a story line in 2000 about a Trump presidency. (It was in 2015.)

University of Pennsylvania communications professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a co-founder of, had problems with the way the study looked at true and false stories. The MIT team characterized a story's truth on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 being completely false., Jamieson said, looks more at context and does not label something either true or false.

She also suggested that calling this bogus information "false stories" does not capture how malignant it is. She said it would "better be called viral deception. VD. And treated as analogous to venereal disease."

The researchers looked at obvious bots — automated accounts — and took them out. While the bots tweeted false information at a higher rate than humans, it wasn't that much of a difference, and even without bots, lies still spread faster and farther, Roy said.

David Lazer, a political and computer scientist at Northeastern University who wasn't part of the study but wrote an accompanying report, praised the MIT research but said the scientists may have missed a lot of bots and cyborgs — sort of in-between humans. His ongoing, not-yet-published research has found that about 80 percent of false stories come from just one-tenth of 1 percent of users.

The researchers dug deeper to find out what kind of false information travels faster and farther. False political stories — researchers didn't separate conservative versus liberal — and stuff that was surprising or anger-provoking spread faster than other types of lies, Aral said.

"Falsehood was significantly more novel than the truth," Aral said. "It's easy to be novel when you make things up."

That fits perfectly with previous research on the psychology of fake information, said Yale University's Dan Kahan and Dartmouth College's Brendan Nyhan, scientists who study the phenomenon.

"The more strange and more sensational the story sounds, the more likely they are going to retweet," Kahan said.

Nyhan and Lazer said that while more fact-checking and education of people on how to tell fake from real can be helpful, the more effective solution will have to come from the social media platforms themselves.

Roy said the study results reminded him of the often-cited quotation that essentially says a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots — or pants — on. It's been attributed to Mark Twain and Winston Churchill. But that would be misinformation. Politifact traced a version of it back to Jonathan Swift in 1710.


Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears . His work can be found here .

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Newest cellphone is only that -- a phone

Published: Friday, March 09, 2018 @ 9:54 AM

FILE PHOTO (DTL/ license
FILE PHOTO (DTL/ license

Your kids are begging for the latest and greatest cellphones to hit the market.

They may not like a new one that’s being introduced, but you sure will like them to have it.

It is called  Light Phone 2 and it has only a few functions. First and foremost is a phone, ABC News reported.

It can call and it can text. But it cannot use Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or any other social media.

>> Read more trending news 

Light Phone 2 can also message, use maps and call for an Uber, the Telegraph reported.

Basically, it’s an old-fashioned flip phone without the flip phone look.

It also uses E-Ink for the display and operates on a modified version of the Android operating system, the Telegraph reported.

“Unlike a flip phone, however, to children the Light Phone is seen as ‘cool’ amongst their peers,” Joe Hollier, co--founder of Light told “Good Morning America.” “We have been working with parents on the idea of a parental app to support their child’s Light Phone 2 as well.”

Light launched it’s first phone in 2016. It could only make calls and store nine numbers, the Telegraph reported. The company sold 10,000 devices, but they were too simple for many and were not practical for some, the Telegraph reported.

Light Phone 2 are expected to ship next year and will cost about $250, the Telegraph reported.

If you want to get in on the new technology, the company launched an IndieGoGo campaign to raise $250,000. So far it has exceeded that amount by 335 percent and has more than $836,000 pledged from supporters.

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This man bit into an iPhone battery and it exploded in his face

Published: Thursday, January 25, 2018 @ 5:13 AM

Apple Admits To Slowing Phones Down As Their Batteries Age

If you needed a reason not to bite your iPhone battery, here it is.

>> On How to tell if Apple is slowing down your iPhone — and how to fix it

According to Taiwan News, a man entered an electronics store in China hoping to purchase a replacement battery for his iPhone.

>> Read more trending news 

In an attempt to test its authenticity, the customer reportedly bit into the battery and as he removed it from his mouth, the product ruptured, exploding in his face.

Luckily, no one was injured.

>> Apple admits to throttling iPhone CPU speed as battery ages

CCTV posted footage of the bizarre incident to, and the video eventually made its way to YouTube.

The episode came soon after outrage over Apple’s admittance to slowing down older iPhone models with aging batteries led to big discounts on replacement batteries around the globe, including in China.

>> Apple faces multiple lawsuits over iPhone battery speed

“However,” Taiwan News reported, “Chinese electronics stores are notoriously replete with fake goods, thus the man was in his own – but obviously wrong – way trying to test its authenticity.”

Lesson of the story: Don’t bite into your iPhone battery

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Apple faces multiple lawsuits over iPhone battery speed

Published: Friday, December 22, 2017 @ 11:09 AM

Apple Admits To Slowing Phones Down As Their Batteries Age

Soon after news emerged that Apple admitted to slowing down iPhone performance as the devices’ batteries age, multiple lawsuits have been filed against the company.

CNBC reported that Stefan Bogdanovich and Dakota Speas filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against Apple, claiming the company never asked for consent from them to alter the performance of their phones.

>> Read more trending news 

The lawsuit says Apple breached the implied contracts with Bogdanovich and Speas “by purposefully slowing down older iPhone models when new models come out and by failing to properly disclose that at the time that the parties entered into an agreement,” according to WCBS.

The complaint also says that the two are entitled to compensation because the slowdown of their devices cause them to suffer “economic damages and other harm.”

Related: Apple admits to throttling iPhone CPU speed as battery ages

“Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components,” Apple said in a statement to The Verge about performance of the devices.

“Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future,” Apple said in the statement.

Apple is being sued after it said it slowed down the performances of older iPhones as the batteries in the devices age.(Sean Gallup/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Bogdanovich and Speas are trying to get the case certified to cover all U.S. owners of iPhones older than the iPhone 8, according to CNBC. Their suit is not the only one against Apple since the company released its statement about iPhone battery speed. WCBS reported that a second class-action lawsuit was filed in Illinois on Thursday night.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the suit was filed in Chicago by two people in Illinois as well as by Ohio, North Carolina and Indiana residents with iPhone models 5 through 7.

The suit says Apple “needlessly subjects consumers to purchasing newer and more expensive iPhones when a replacement battery could have allowed consumers to continue to use their older iPhones.”

Unspecified damages are being sought in the suit.

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Obama had the most-liked tweet of 2017; here's what it said

Published: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 1:44 AM

Obama’s Tweet about Charlottesville Most-Liked Tweet of All Time

Twitter has released its end-of-year stats and revealed that former President Barack Obama had the most-liked tweet of 2017.

>> Read more trending news

His tweet, sent in August after white nationalists marched on Charlottesville, Virginia, has been liked 4.6 million times. The tweet reads, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion,” accompanied by a picture of him looking up at a group of children.

The tweet, a portion of a quote from late South African President Nelson Mandela, was followed up by two more tweets from Obama, which finished the quote.

>> See the tweet here

 “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite,” the quote, in whole, reads.

>> Obama's Charlottesville response becomes most-liked tweet of all time

Obama’s tweet following the Charlottesville march wasn’t his only top tweet. He also took the third spot for most-liked, and the second, fifth, and eighth spots for most-retweeted tweets.

His other top tweets included his tweet to Sen. John McCain after the Arizona Republican was diagnosed with cancer; the final line of his presidential farewell address in Chicago; and his farewell after leaving the Oval Office for the last time.

Other top tweets included Ariana Grande’s tweet after the bombing at her Manchester, England, concert; LeBron James’s tweet when he called President Donald Trump a “bum"; a tweet promising to donate 6 pounds of dog food to Houston dogs affected by Hurricane Harvey for every retweet it received; another tweet asking for retweets to raise donations for Houston;, a photo from Linkin Park of its former frontman, Chester Bennington, after he committed suicide earlier this year; the number to the suicide hotline tweeted by social media star Seth Joseph; and finally, the most-retweeted tweet of the year came from 16-year-old Carter Wilkerson begging for retweets so he could win free chicken nuggets from Wendy’s for a year.

While Trump didn’t win a top spot for any of his own tweets, he was the most-tweeted-about world leader.

President Trump And Twitter

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