How Lies Spread Online – Sinan Aral

From The New York Times

The spread of misinformation on social media is an alarming phenomenon that scientists have yet to fully understand. While the data show that false claims are increasing online, most studies have analyzed only small samples or the spread of individual fake stories.

My colleagues Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy and I set out to change that. We recently analyzed the diffusion of all of the major true and false stories that spread on Twitter from its inception in 2006 to 2017. Our data included approximately 126,000 Twitter “cascades” (unbroken chains of retweets with a common, singular origin) involving stories spread by three million people more than four and a half million times.

Disturbingly, we found that false stories spread significantly more than did true ones. Our findings were published on Thursday in the journal Science.

We started by identifying thousands of true and false stories, using information from six independent fact-checking organizations, including Snopes, PolitiFact and These organizations exhibited considerable agreement — between 95 percent and 98 percent — on the truth or falsity of these stories. Read More »

Taking steps to reduce foreign social-media meddling in our elections – Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

From Huffington Post

One could almost pity the executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter as they were grilled on Capitol Hill earlier this week by senators upset about Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election, via the posting of cleverly worded propaganda ads and messages on social-media sites.

After all, how do you detect – let alone stop – a small group of determined foreign nationals manipulating and taking advantage of what’s supposed to be open, free-flowing Internet platforms idealistically designed to allow billions of people across the globe to voice their thoughts on everything from world politics to the type off pigeons in Trafalgar Square?

Of course, the Facebook, Google and Twitter executives at the Senate hearing earlier this week bowed their heads, expressed remorse and vowed to do better in combating the threat of foreign interference in our democratic elections.

But the question is: Can they do better? Is it possible? Remember: Facebook alone acknowledges that it received only about $100,000 in paid ads by those it later learned were tied to various Russian groups, but those ads were still seen by about 10 million people, according to media reports.

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Just the facts: Information access can shrink political divide – Evan Apfelbaum & Erik Duhaime

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. Evan Apfelbaum

MIT Sloan Ph.D. student Erik Duhaime

From The Hill

Political polarization in the U.S. is at its highest level in decades. This isn’t surprising, especially in the wake of the recent presidential election.

It’s hard to go on social media, much less cable news these days and not see reports that support one political side and vilify the other. Is there any hope for bringing the country closer together? We think so.

In a recent study, we found that the way information is presented can influence political polarization. When it is presented in a way that engages people in an objective analysis of the information at hand, political polarization can decrease. Yet when the same information provokes people to think about their relevant political preferences, people remain polarized.

In other words, people might moderate their views when they have more information on how a contentious policy works, but not if they’re busy thinking about what they want or why they want it.

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Do you think fake news can be killed with the truth? Think again–Sharon Pian Chan, Andre Alfred

Andre Alfred, Executive MBA Student at MIT Sloan

Andre Alfred, Executive MBA Student at MIT Sloan

Sharon Pian Chan, Executive MBA Student at MIT Sloan

Sharon Pian Chan, Executive MBA Student at MIT Sloan

From Art + marketing

The presidential election exposed deep divisions in the country, among our families, friends, in the workplace and in the classroom.

Buzzfeed’s recent findings about the power of fake news is particularly troubling. The 20-most read fake stories got more traffic than the top 20 stories reported by credible news organizations that verify facts and validate stories.

In fact, people writing fake news are making more money than journalists committed to reporting the truth, according to Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat, who talked to a fake news site in Seattle called Bipartisan Report.

Fake news sent a man with an assault rifle to a pizza shop in Washington, D.C., searching for a fictional child sex ring connected to Hillary Clinton. (Check out The Washington Post’s story.)

What are the forces behind the creation and, let’s face it, widespread consumption of lies?

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Join Georgina Campbell Flatter for a Twitter chat on accelerating global change through innovation-driven entrepreneurship and finance


On December 13 in London, the MIT Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship together with the MIT Sloan Office of International Programs (OIP) will bring together entrepreneurs, policymakers, and philanthropists from around the world to accelerate global change through innovation-driven entrepreneurship – a powerful mechanism for alleviating poverty and generating prosperity.

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