There is much shock and indignation at the manner in which fake news spreads upon Twitter. No doubt another argument to be used in favour of regulation of what people can post upon Twitter – and do understand that this argument is already being floated. Yet there’s a problem here which is that why does anyone think that this form of communication is going to be any different from all those that humans have used before?
False information spreads much faster and farther than the truth on Twitter-and although it is tempting to blame automated “bot” programs for this, human users are more at fault.
At least someone’s got it right, this is about humans, not technology. It never was the news that Jenner dealt with smallpox which ran across the gossip networks, it was the insistence that some bird in Slumpton – Slumpton being identified as the location more often the further the speaker was from Slumpton – had given birth to kittens that did.
“Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it,” wrote Jonathan Swift in 1710. Now a group of scientists say they have found evidence Swift was right – at least when it comes to Twitter.
Why would anyone be surprised given that it’s still humans that we’re talking about?
Who is to blame for spreading false rumours online? A new study suggests it’s not just the bots. It’s us.
False news spread “farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly” than true news on Twitter between 2006 and 2017, a team of US scientists has found.
Their study, published today in the journal Science, is one of the largest long-term investigation of fake news on social media ever conducted.
We could have worked this out – indeed most of us did – without the intervention of the social scientists. For the one great finding in all of those social sciences is that stereotypes are largely true. Or at least that there’s a truth at the heart of them.
Now, I prefer Sir Pterry’s version of Twain’s comment about truth, shoes and boots but as we can see above Swift scooped both of them by a couple of centuries at least. It’s simply not a surprise, or shouldn’t be, that lies, falsehoods and straight good gossip travel faster than truth. Simply because that’s how us humans work and as far as we know always have.
Seriously, get over it, Twitter is just humans being humans. Anyone surprised by their behaviour there is betraying that they’ve not met any actual humans. But then I’d generally argue that’s true of most social scientists and all snowflakes.