The internet. Where the Truth Lies

An analysis of ~126,000 stories tweeted by ~3 million people more than 4.5 million times, reveals 3 things(1):

  1. Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information
  2. The effects are more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information.
  3. Robots accelerate the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.

It’s us, stupid: people. (You may as well remove the colon : 😉

Putting things in perspective(2):

Journalistic norms of objectivity and balance arose as a backlash among journalists against the widespread use of propaganda in World War I (particularly their own role in propagating it) and the rise of corporate public relations in the 1920s. Local and national oligopolies created by the dominant 20th century technologies of information distribution (print and broadcast) sustained these norms. The internet has lowered the cost of entry to new competitors—many of which have rejected those norms—and undermined the business models of traditional news sources that had enjoyed high levels of public trust and credibility.

The conclusion is clear: We must redesign our information ecosystem in the 21st century. However, how can we create a news ecosystem and culture that values and promotes truth?

A new system of safeguards is needed. Addressing fake news requires a multidisciplinary effort, which is global in scope. I used to think that what the news industry needed is a sort of Netflix-Spotify-like platform!, but this model is not going to emerge in a market controlled by today’s established platforms. In other words:

  1. Current business model (advertising) supporting most content creation and, fundamentally, news, is fundamentally broken.
  2. Current dominant platforms have reached a monopoly position. They lack a true incentive to solve the problem, and they will prevent the emergence of a (possible) alternative.

A final question: Now that we know that, on the current playing field, the battle between Truth and Lies will be won by Lies, what are you going to do?

You can start by tweeting this, and don’t worry too much. This is true. Nobody will pay attention…


(1) Vosoughi, Soroush, Deb Roy, and Sinan Aral. 2018. ‘The Spread of True and False News Online’. Science 359 (6380): 1146–51.

(2) Lazer, David M. J., Matthew A. Baum, Yochai Benkler, Adam J. Berinsky, Kelly M. Greenhill, Filippo Menczer, Miriam J. Metzger, et al. 2018. ‘The Science of Fake News’. Science 359 (6380): 1094–96.

Featured Image: Mad Men – Where the truth lies. Finale

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