back to article Bots don't spread fake news on Twitter, people do, say MIT eggheads

False news spreads faster and reaches more people than the truth on Twitter and humans are more to blame than bots, according to a paper published in Science on Thursday. As social media giants come under closer scrutiny by governments worldwide hoping to clamp down on the negative political and social effects of fake news, …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    The Gullibility Test

    Well, it says everything one needs to know about Golgafrinchan Ark Fleet Ship B and the list of its passengers (available in Facebook and Twitter databases)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Gullibility Test

      I tried to take the gullibility test, paid £100 to an online company for the privilege and all I got back was an email saying I passed. Still a bit confused to be honest.

      1. Kane Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: The Gullibility Test

        "I tried to take the gullibility test, paid £100 to an online company for the privilege and all I got back was an email saying I passed. Still a bit confused to be honest."

        Step this way sir! Please, mind your head on the hatch entrance, we wouldn't want to disturb that snazzy hairstyle, would we!

        Have you considered a career in advertising?

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: The Gullibility Test

          Have you considered a career in advertising?

          People that can sell, do. People that can't sell do marketing. People that can't do marketing do advertising..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Gullibility Test

      I don't think it's primarily down to gullibility; it's more a split between prejudice and anarchy. Some news will simply support people's prejudices and biases but anarchy is also a strong and, I believe, growing factor; a lot of people are throwing a lot of spanners into whatever works they can find, not out of simple vandalism, but out of a growing dissatisfaction with how the world is being run.

      1. rob 47

        Re: The Gullibility Test

        Not sure why the down vote, I think you've hit the nail resoundingly on the head. From my viewpoint most of the reasons for UKIP, Brexit, Trump, Rightwing parties, et al is down to an opportunity to vent dissatisfaction rather than a real belief these respective paths are "correct".

  2. JimC

    Or to put it another way:

    "A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on."

    GNU Terry Pratchett

    (with nods to Twain and Spurgeon too)

    1. John H Woods

      re: (with nods to Twain and Spurgeon too)

      Ironically, although your attributions are those I would have considered correct, it seems that perhaps neither Twain nor Spurgeon had much to do with it!

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: re: (with nods to Twain and Spurgeon too)

        But it does perhaps help to remember Ted Sturgeon's "90% of everything is crap".

      2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: re: (with nods to Twain and Spurgeon too)

        https://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/07/13/truth

        That article was beautifully ironic. It basically traced three centuries of misquotes, misattributions, and almost certain malattributions--of a quote about truth's disadvantage when combating lies.

        I'm stunned by the researcher's restraint--he made no reference to this fact.

        But Swift's discourse is not about the speed of transmission--he is talking about efficacy.

        "Besides, as the vilest Writer has his Readers, so the greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believ’d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect..."

        1710 November 2 to November 9, The Examiner, Number 15, (Article by Jonathan Swift), Quote Page 2, Column 1, Printed for John Morphew, near Stationers-Hall, London.

        "If a Lie be believed only for an hour, it has done it's work." THAT is a quote that deserves prominent display in many offices. Unfortunately, most of them would cause me more dismay than satisfaction.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People are dumb, me included, until you realise that then you will never be anything else.

    1. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ
      Alert

      “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”

      George Carlin....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        stupid people

        Well, slightly less than 50% is enough in the US, whilst in the UK 52% is needed.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I think people missed the point of my original comment, though I do enjoy the George Carlin quote.

        If you think you know everything then you are dumb, if you realise you are dumb you have the potential to learn because nobody knows everything.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Absolutely. Only way to counter your dumbness is to recognise it.

  4. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ
    Facepalm

    facebook and idiots....

    The thing I find with facebook is that people just share stuff believing it to be true.

    Its the same shite that gets recycled over and over and people swallow it up...

    Most of the time you can see that the story is bulshit, but even when you post a link to snopes or similar showing its full of shit, people afterwards don't read it and still share it...

    but just for shits'n'giggles I like to post about the dangers of DHMO and watch the gullible share !!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: facebook and idiots....

      "Most of the time you can see that the story is bulshit, but even when you post a link to snopes or similar showing its full of shit, people afterwards don't read it and still share it..."

      My wife is on FB. She's given up telling people they are passing shit by proving them wrong. They either ignore, as you said, or block her. Some people really, really do not want their personal little bubbles to be burst by a pin prick of reality.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: facebook and idiots....

        I think that for the average Faecebook user, they would rather believe the sensationalism of the hoax no matter if it's completely debunked, because the lie is more atttactive to them - it's the evolution of the popularity of the scummy tabloid/Mail/Guardian lies.

        Sounds like your wife is not the typical Faecebook user and she should perhaps consider leaving them all to it and not looking at it.

        Whatever you think you need Faecebook for, there's always a better way of doing it if you do it properly.

      2. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: facebook and idiots....

        "My wife is on FB. She's given up telling people they are passing shit by proving them wrong. They either ignore, as you said, or block her. Some people really, really do not want their personal little bubbles to be burst by a pin prick of reality".

        I gave up trying to explain things to some folks years ago. I got into so many flame wars that I deleted my original FB account and even had to "play dead" for a while to make some people go away.

        What really annoyed me was people spreading fake AMBER alerts - and these were friends in the UK. I tried to warn them that the alerts they were passing were fake, not even asking "How would you feel if someone took a picture of YOUR daughter and slapped it on one of these alerts ?" got the point across.

        Even if you point people to an original source, they still won't believe you - I've had to explain the "Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus" hoax to several people over the years, and they still refuse to accept that they've been hoodwinked. Lesson NOT learned.

        Who needs bots and AI when there's so much natural stupidity around ?

  5. Rebel Science

    Twitter spreads fake news on Twitter.

    And blocks news that are right wing. Twitter is a huge propaganda platform for the far left. We all know this is true. Why deny it?

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Twitter spreads fake news on Twitter.

      [citation needed]

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Twitter spreads fake news on Twitter.

      Twitter is a huge propaganda platform for the far left

      ..lead by that well-known Marxist philosopher Donald J. Trump..

  6. vir

    We Should All Speak Bulgarian

    Bulgarian inflects verbs for evidentiality: whether the speaker knows the action took place from direct observation, inference, a report from another person, or a doubtful source.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We Should All Speak Bulgarian

      so is airbag a verb in Bulgarian?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We Should All Speak Bulgarian

      Bulgarian inflects verbs for evidentiality: whether the speaker knows the action took place from direct observation, inference, a report from another person, or a doubtful source.

      In other news, Bulgarians incapable of lying.

    3. cupperty

      Re: We Should All Speak Bulgarian

      Did you make this up?

    4. diadomraz

      Re: We Should All Speak Bulgarian

      I do know some Bulgarian and yes there are some inflections to show doubt in the source or to retell something you haven't observed yourself. Still speaking from personal experience you can bend the truth in Bulgarian as well as any other language

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Basically falshood is like candy and burgers. Designed to be very appealing

    but not doing you any good.

    IE it's an infectious meme.

    But of course a few people at the top calling "Bu***it" would stop this in its tracks.

    1. onefang Silver badge

      Re: Basically falshood is like candy and burgers. Designed to be very appealing

      I was also going to point this out, and add that the truth is limited to the boring facts, but the fake can be embellished in a totally unlimited way, thus tends to be much more interesting.

    2. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Basically falshood is like candy and burgers. Designed to be very appealing

      IE it's an infectious meme.

      Sorry, I misread that as "IE is an infectious meme"

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Basically falshood is like candy and burgers. Designed to be very appealing

        @Alister - Don't be sorry, the original was a typo, you're was the intended version... probably.

  8. Chozo

    Retweet

    We are all hackable bags of wetware, it is merely a question of finding the vulnerability.

    Retweet or I start playing the banjo again

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Retweet

      "Retweet or I start playing the banjo again"

      Play away,my friend, play away!

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Retweet

      Retweet or I start playing the banjo again

      Feel free. I'm armed with noise-cancelling headphones..

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Devil

        Target practise...

        Retweet or I start playing the banjo again

        Feel free. I'm armed.

        FTFY

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People believe what they choose to believe; whether it is objectively true or not is a minor factor.

    See also: religion.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      See also: truthiness.

      Thanks, Colbert.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC, almost. People believe something to be true either because they want to be true, or because they are afraid it might true. That's the first law of magic.

      1. David Nash Silver badge

        Choosing to believe...

        The odd thing is, I have always maintained that I can't choose what to believe, rather I am either convinced by the evidence or other persuasion, or I am not. That's not a choice.

        Is that not the case for most people?

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Choosing to believe...

          The odd thing is, I have always maintained that I can't choose what to believe, rather I am either convinced by the evidence or other persuasion, or I am not. That's not a choice.

          David Nash,

          Confirmation bias isn't a conscious process.

          We all weight facts for reliability to some extent. And if you think the facts on the other side of the argument are less reliable, you're move likely to discount them. Unless you're spending serious time on trying to research something - in which case you're hopefully doing a lot more of your reasoning consciously.

          So if I don't like some evidence, and it happens to be sourced from the Mail, the Torygraph, or increasingly, the Guardian - I'm much more likely to dismiss it with minimal consideration. Of course I should go and look up the provenance of said "facts", but life is short and so I often don't.

          I'm willing to change my opinions, although I'm not perfect and so am rather more likely to wait a few weeks to do so, even if I'm convinced by someone in an argument. Who likes publicly admitting they're wrong? Although it's partly also that I try to be slow to take on opinions in the first place - and not go with my gut feeling - so at least I've got an excuse to be slow changing my mind.

        2. Loud Speaker

          Re: Choosing to believe...

          Is that not the case for most people?

          Maybe most in some cultures. In the west, there is a strong tradition of supporting positions by reference to established facts and logical structures. However, this is far from universally the case.

          In many cultures, support for deference to authority is a much stronger. Often, in these cultures, age is a measure of authority. Hence statements by elderly (possibly orange and/or demented) gits trumps arguments by well informed young specialists.

          Deference to authority is particularly strong when literacy is low, or where facts are complex - people unable to grasp complexity often refute its existence to defend their stance.

          For Example, Boko Haram are militantly opposed to the very concept of rational argument (as in use guns against anybody presenting a rational argument). They are not alone. (We are 118)

        3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Choosing to believe...

          I have always maintained that I can't choose what to believe, rather I am either convinced by the evidence or other persuasion, or I am not. That's not a choice.

          To some extent, you're running up against the First-Person Restriction on Doxastic Explanation, which is a theory in doxastic philosophy (the philosophy of belief) which says that there's a limit on the extent to which you can logically question your own beliefs.

          In simple terms, it's not logical for a sufficiently-powerful reasoner (any reflexive reasoner, really) to both believe P and believe that the belief in P has no relationship to P's truthfulness. (I'd write that out symbolically but it would be tough given the Reg's forum constraints and I doubt it'd help anyone anyway.) While you can entertain the idea that one of your beliefs is incorrect, if you truly believe that belief is completely arbitrary, you essentially hollow out the original belief. If you follow.

          However: The word "choice" here is problematic for other reasons. One, of course, is that there is great disagreement on what "choice" is, as a quale (a mental experience) or as a physical event. Naive strict determinists would argue that there's ultimately no such thing as choice, and all your beliefs are predetermined.[1]

          But there's no point in considering naive strict determinism[2], so let's assume it's wrong, and there is both physical choice and a quale of choice. As you posit, it would seem that your beliefs would appear to flow from some mental operation performed on various inputs, a process we gloss as persuasion. Are there aspects of choice there?

          Many would argue there are. For example, there are qualia of making choices which come into play: choosing to yield to emotion or attempt to reason, for example; and how much effort to put into reasoning. Choosing to search for more information. Choosing to espouse a belief for social or political reasons, until you convince yourself of it. And so on.

          Beyond that, many people would argue that there are choices happening beyond the phenomenological horizon - that you have conscious, reflexive access to only part of your thinking process, and what happens beyond there you do not know. You can call that "unconscious" or appeal to an emergent view of consciousness or whatever floats your boat, but there aren't many philosophers of mind or cognitive scientists or psychologists or whatnot who will tell you that you know everything that goes on in your noggin. So you may as well assume there are choices happening in the shadows.

          Personally, while doxastic logic and philosophy of mind are fine ways to while away the idle hours, I think the more important issues are how persuasion happens in practice. And for that we should look to psychology and rhetoric. On the particular matter of social media, I'd suggest that even lay books such as Being Wrong, You are Not so Smart, and Trust Me, I'm Lying explain the results of this study quite adequately.

          [1] Of course, if they're correct, then they have no choice but to argue that. And their opponents have no choice but to disagree.

          [2] Even if a strictly-deterministic universe forces us to, in a strictly-deterministic universe there's no point to anything, because every outcome is predetermined.

  10. VeganVegan
    Big Brother

    It is rather odd though,

    On the face of it it, the observation that fake goes farther than non-fake says that the twats, at least in the aggregate, can and do know the difference, and treat the one differently than the other.

    Being more inclined to pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ's point of view (how stupid the average person is, etc.), I wonder if they analyzed if there is a distinct subset of twats who are responsible for most of the fake re-tweets.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: It is rather odd though,

      "On the face of it it, the observation that fake goes farther than non-fake says that the twats, at least in the aggregate, can and do know the difference, and treat the one differently than the other."

      Naa, it's more likely that people will not only retweet something that reinforces their own prejudices, but that the fake stuff is more exciting than the real world, usually stuff they can vent their faux outrage at.

      I doubt they stop and think long enough (or at all!) about whether it might not be true.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: It is rather odd though,

        the fake stuff is more exciting than the real world

        And more likely constructed and disseminated in a manner tuned for social-media distribution. See Halliday's Trust Me, I'm Lying for a wide-ranging but accessible discussion of how blog-and-social-media manipulation works, and how the economies of those vehicles depend on it.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The truth is usually complex

    El Reg and other news organizations would be well served to lose the term "fake news" because it's meaningless. Both the left and right largely believe what they want to be true. The truth is usually complex, with most people being too lazy to do any research.

    1. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

      Re: The truth is usually complex

      It's not meaningless, but its meaning has been changed. It was initially used to refer to spin put on news by reputable news organisations. An classic example is Trump feeding the fish in Japan: he was said to have done a boo-boo by simply tipping his box of fish food into the pond. However, when Youtube provides the unedited (and uneditorialised) video, it is clear that he simply copied what Shinzō Abe had done. Trump is terrible, but so is the "fake news": it is unbecoming of the 4th estate.

      Of course, it is perfectly fine to use the term "fake news" to refer to the clickbait crap that comes out of the East. But it also conveniently distracts from the original use for the term.

      1. Ole Juul

        Re: The truth is usually complex

        "Of course, it is perfectly fine to use the term "fake news" to refer to the clickbait crap that comes out of the East. "

        By "East", I assume you mean Washington?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The truth is usually complex

        "used to refer to spin put on news by reputable news organisations"

        All news organizations put a spin on their news. All. The Guardian is as far to the left as Fox News is to the right. That's why intelligent people must read a number of different sources especially ones with which they might disagree.

        "Trump is terrible"

        Trump's morals would shame an alley cat and his cavorting with the 1% is revolting, but he's the only candidate to note that H-1B / L-1 visas are corporate welfare and that Muslims by and large refuse to assimilate into the general population. But then again, my downvote/upvote ratio exceeds 5.

        "clickbait crap that comes out of the East"

        Russia? China?

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: The truth is usually complex

          Regarding Trump and coverage of him on the BBC website, I've noticed that they tend to always use angry shouty-face photos of him.

          It's quite possible that no other photos exist, I suppose, but there is a certain power there to affect a person's popularity by the use of unflattering images.

        2. Naselus

          Re: The truth is usually complex

          "The Guardian is as far to the left as Fox News is to the right."

          It's really not. While both sides have their ecosphere of bullshit, it's more prevalent on the right, and also penetrates futher into the right's mainstream. So, for example, while OccupyDemocrats is roughly akin to Breitbart, in that both will happy report complete bullshit, Fox is not akin to MSNBC, in that Fox will also report complete bullshit while MSNBC will merely put a liberal spin on actual news, and the raving moonbats reading OccupyDemocrats are not considered sensible by the mainstream left while Brietbart is a major right-wing news source. Drawing a false equivalence between the two is actually used by the right to try and cover the fact that they've gone completely down the rabbit hole.

          Interestingly, Fox News isn't homogenous in this respect - while the actual News parts of Fox News probably can be compared to the Guardian (it's actual news, but with a right-wing spin), the 'opinion' parts (ie, 90% of the channel's actual output, like Hannity or Tucker Carlson) are way out in dipsy-la-la land. It's notable that the actual news portions of Fox are not remotely as popular as the crazy bullshit opinion muppets are.

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: The truth is usually complex

            I don't agree.

            Frankly all modern newspapers are crap. There is little investigation or journalism on any topic and lying by omission is so commonplace that huge numbers of people read multiple news sources to try and get something approaching the truth.

            Compared to the newspapers of a hundred years ago todays all news is an utter disgrace.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: The truth is usually complex

              Compared to the newspapers of a hundred years ago todays all news is an utter disgrace.

              You cannot hope to bribe or twist,

              Thank God! The British journalist.

              But, seeing what the man will do

              Unbribed, there's no occasion to.

              There is no mythical golden era. The press has always had good bits and bad bits - and now is no different. Journalism has pretty much always been under financial pressure too. I'd say it's always been true that people are more interested in human interest and sensation than they are in boring old politics. So if politics can be reported to have human interest and sensation, then it will be more popular. But I think that only lasts a bit - and then people get sick of it and decide they're all corrupt unprincipled bastards. Because now all they're reading about is scandal, because they're still not reading the boring stuff about policy - they're just reading politics reported as star gossip. Politics as showbusiness for ugly people...

              I think the internet has done quite a bit of damage to journalism. Firstly in that it's bollocksed up the income stream even more than normal. Hence doing less expensive journalism and more cheap churnalism (lightly re-writing PR and putting it out as your own stories). But also in the complete metrics editors can see of what sells. Before the editor could tell the money-men that although a picture of Dianna would put 50-100k on the Sunday paper's circulation - there still needed to be real news in it too, or sales would plummet like the Express. But now the money-men can tell exactly which stories get the most clicks and can delude themselves that they don't need an editor.

              An "alt-left" type like The Canary actually pays its journalists by the number of clicks they get on their articles. So if you write a boring political story with a headline that says what's in it - you'll go hungry that night. So it's full of the worst clickbait type bollocks - or at least was the last time I looked at it.

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "the top 1 per cent of false-news cascades routinely diffused to between 1,000 and 100,000"

    Well duh. It's hardly new : 20 years ago people were forwarding mails promising that Microsoft would give money to whomever sent it to 20 people (or however many).

    I have spent quite a bit of time trying to respond and educate the people sending me the latest fraud mail of the day - because many of those were people I personally knew. Some of them do not speak to me anymore; apparently I dared challenge their worldview and they did not accept that. I do not miss them.

    But it would seem that there are precious few people who do even the most basic checks when they get something that appears to be "insider news". They do not check that the originator is from the same domain they claim to represent, they do not check that any names or places mentioned actually exist, they do not check, period. They read, accept, forward and move on, feeling good about themselves when they have only just participated in making the world more stupid.

    The silver lining on this dark cloud of dispair is that, sometimes, someone actually accepts to be educated and understand how simple it is to control the verisimilitude of a new post.

    1. Tim Seventh

      Re: "the top 1 per cent of false-news cascades routinely diffused to between 1,000 and 100,000"

      I have spent quite a bit of time trying to respond and educate the people sending me the latest fraud mail of the day - because many of those were people I personally knew. Some of them do not speak to me anymore; apparently I dared challenge their worldview and they did not accept that.

      Unless you had authority over them or they are open minded, challenging their worldview is pointless. If I were you, I would have straightly out pointed out the fraud mail and stop there. If they accept my educate, then good for them. If they don't, then I let Darwinism take in charge.

      ^Self referencing statement. This comment points out exactly one thing and stops there. If you accept it, then good for you. If not, then I also let Darwinism take in charge.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: "the top 1 per cent of false-news cascades routinely diffused to between 1,000 and 100,000"

        And what if the response defies Darwinism instead by making the stupid rise up and kill the intellectuals?

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: "the top 1 per cent of false-news cascades routinely diffused to between 1,000 and 100,000"

          "And what if the response defies Darwinism instead by making the stupid rise up and kill the intellectuals?

          This could of already happened when you consider how people are using there written languages, because the incorrect has become so prevalent that it is becoming the correct. *

          * deliberate incorrect past modal and spelling of "their" for illustration.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. veti Silver badge

    Not comparing like with like

    A "true" news story generally gets reported by many different channels concurrently. A made up one has a single authoritative source.

    To compare the two on Twitter, you'd need to aggregate all the "primary" sources of the real news story, vs following the propagation of just one tweet for the made-up story.

    To put it another way: a BBC tweet may not get many retweets, not because no-one's interested in the story, but because they prefer the reporting in the Grauniad or Le Monde or the Chicago Tribune instead.

  14. tom dial Silver badge

    The takeaway

    Man bites dog is news, dog bites man is not, and bots operate as (more or less) linear amplifiers. The paper sounds like a reasonable antidote to the current moral panic over FaceBook, Twitter, and the Russians. It will be subjected to immediate social network attenuation.

  15. Lee D Silver badge

    "A lie will be half way around the world before the truth has got its boots on."

    It's not hard to see why when people are how they are (to understand why people continue to do so is another matter entirely). I've taken to Snopes-linking all the rubbish that comes up on my Facebook from "friends". It's a brilliant way to deal with it because they either learn and stop posting nonsense or (more likely) take me off their friends list (which saves me the hassle and rudeness of doing so).

    Everything from the "waiter's-missing-pound" maths puzzle, to junk about the brace-position on airplanes, to "medical" studies, to diets, etc.

    The truth may be stranger than fiction, but fiction definitely has a better agency and gets more bookings.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " It's a brilliant way to deal with it because they either learn and stop posting nonsense or (more likely) take me off their friends list (which saves me the hassle and rudeness of doing so)."

      But what if they take a third option: keep you on their list and relay stuff from other friends in an "anti-Snopes" bomb attack? Remember, some people respond to your kind of stuff by doubling down.

  16. adeedee

    Fake news = Gossip

    Or am I completely dumb? Gossips have been around ... well, perhaps even longer than the call-girl profession. And people love to gossip, right? So what is this all about, really?

    I think we should ponder more about who is actually stirring this whole fake-news thing and look ahead what may come out of it. In my opinion, nothing good.

  17. Gordon Pryra

    Whats the point to this experiment?

    Lies are always more interesting than the truth.

    Generally that is why they were written, to cause some affect, so are going to be written more sensational style.

    Rather than looking at the reach of truth and lies, they should have looked at the STYLE of the various posts.

    I bet the vast majority of "lies" are more interesting to read than the boring truth.....

    The wages of sin are high, and the uniforms are better

    1. Loud Speaker

      Re: Whats the point to this experiment?

      It seems no one has yet pointed out that Twitter specifically targets twits.

      It is possible that media targeting the marginally sane may respond differently from media for the self-selecting insane,

  18. Brennan Young

    Good article, and the study appears not too soon.

    Does this mean that all those hysterical cries of "Russian Bot" and "Russian Troll Factory" will cease, now that we have pretty hard facts from a study of unprecedented scale which show that the threat of fake news bots is wildly overrated?

    Might we move towards a future where journalists actually pay more than just lip service to a culture of fact-checking, and a maintain a healthy distrust of copy-ready press-releases as they fill their quota of stories before noon?

    Might it finally make the DNC, the Democratic Party and their champions in the media start thinking about their own culpability in Trump's election?

    Might we see the knee-jerk McCarthyite smear of "Russian Troll" slowly disappearing from online discussions whenever someone makes a comment remotely critical of Hillary, Obama, or US foreign policy?

    And will Register correspondents to stop implying (or stating outright) that Internet Research Agency are a tool of the Kremlin as though this has been *proven*?

    Oh, that would be nice. It would be little short of an enlightenment.

    But the convenient scapegoat of "Putin's Trump-supporting bot army" will be a hard habit for so-called liberals to kick, won't it? I'm sure they'll cling on to its kindergarten-level explanatory principle pluckily, at least until they lose the next election, and no doubt be ready to put Russia in the frame for that, too.

    Meanwhile, the Right will continue to embrace the fake-news-bot narrative because it gives them a pretext to censor the internet. (I can smell the drool). And the so-called liberals will cheer them on, as they did when RT was forced to declare itself a 'foreign agent' rather than a news org.

    That Putin controls the Internet Research Agency is not established with *any* verifiable evidence, beyond that they are both located in (different cities in) Russia, and one of the IRA board members once did the catering at an event where Putin appeared. Even if there was any more than this to go on, we now know (thanks to this study) that the reach, impact and strategic intentions of the IRA and their ilk are far less sinister than commonly imagined.

    The 'evidence supporting' the "Kremlin Troll" conceit seems to depend almost entirely on hearsay coming from professionals who have spent most of their entire careers getting paid to lie to the population about how evil Russia is, signal-boosted by journalists who neither know nor care how to check it or challenge any of the details.

    Yes, it *might* be true. (Show me some hard evidence, or shut up!) But that's not the same as actually being true. The distinction is rather important for an old stickler-for-facts like me. It's the very distinction between fake news and decent journalism.

    AFAICT, the Internet Research Agency is just a clickbait outfit. Which is certainly bad, but hardly the nemesis of western democracy.

    Hoping for some sanity. Expectations very low. Because as the study shows, people prefer fake news.

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