Report

The spread of true and false news online

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  09 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6380, pp. 1146-1151
DOI: 10.1126/science.aap9559

eLetters is an online forum for ongoing peer review. Submission of eLetters are open to all. eLetters are not edited, proofread, or indexed.  Please read our Terms of Service before submitting your own eLetter.

Compose eLetter

Plain text

  • Plain text
    No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Author Information
First or given name, e.g. 'Peter'.
Your last, or family, name, e.g. 'MacMoody'.
Your email address, e.g. higgs-boson@gmail.com
Your role and/or occupation, e.g. 'Orthopedic Surgeon'.
Your organization or institution (if applicable), e.g. 'Royal Free Hospital'.
Statement of Competing Interests
CAPTCHA

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Vertical Tabs

  • A future challenge: How will information that accuracy changes is distributed?

    Soroush Vosoughi et al. revealed that false news spreads faster than true news (1).
    Meanwhile, since the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, Twitter has been used for rescue requests by disasters. Those tweets tend to be spread by a third party, but it is also pointed out that the original tweet becomes difficult to be found in a large amount of re-tweets, and the non-editable tweet after the rescue induces a confusion. In other words, even though it is true information at the beginning, it turns into less accurate information or false information later. This is a different pattern from mixed information, and the visualization (2) may be drawn with a video.
    Nowadays, Twitter Japan is guiding to delete the original tweets after rescue (3).

    References:
    1. S. Vosoughi, D. Roy, S. Aral, The spread of true and false news online. Science (80-. ). 359, 1146–1151 (2018).
    2. Cover stories: Visualizing the spread of true and false news on social media. Science (80-. ). 359, eaat4382 (2018).
    3. Twitter Japan, An example of rescue request (In Japanese) (2015), (available at https://twitter.com/TwitterLifeline/status/642206749265518592).

    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Based on Shannon's measure of information content, rare messages (lies) are more rapidly spread than non-rare messages (the truth)

    Soroush Vosoughi et al. reported that lies spread faster than the truth (1). Shannon (2) derived a measure of information content called "surprisal" of a message m:
    Information(m)=-log_2 P(m)=log_2 (1/(P(m)))

    Shannon derivation states that rare messages are more informative than non-rare messages. In other words, we tend to retweet more rare messages than non-rare messages. If false news are more rare, then we will retweet them. If true news are more rare, then we will retweet them. It is obvious in twitter messages that we tend to retweet "surprisal" of a message. Based on Shannon's measure of information content, rare messages (lies) are more rapidly spread than non-rare messages (the truth). Shannon has already predicted their conclusion.

    References:
    1. Soroush Vosoughi et al.," The spread of true and false news online," Science 09 Mar 2018: Vol. 359, Issue 6380, pp. 1146-1151
    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantities_of_information

    Competing Interests: None declared.

Navigate This Article