Popular Science

Our stupid brains love spreading lies all over the internet

A new study from MIT suggests "fake news" often trumps the truth.

a man reading a phone

Think before you RT, my dude.

Social media allows us to catch news in real time, but it also makes it incredibly easy for false information to spread. A new study published this week in Science suggests that hoaxes, whether they be unintentional nuggets of misinformation or malicious pieces of propaganda, actually disseminate more quickly than pieces of true news.

But that’s not at all surprising, from a psychological standpoint. By their very design, these falsehoods prey upon some of humanity’s greatest cognitive weaknesses.

Because most people get information from social media without thinking about which traditional news outlets the stories come from, the researchers—Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy, and Sinan Aral of MIT’s Media involving any piece of information (texts, photos, links to articles) that purported to be true news. That leads us to a brief caveat: this study isn’t necessarily evaluating our ability to tell whether or not a news article is biased to the point of absurdity, or downright untrue. A tweet with a lie in it isn't exactly the same thing as a news article full of misinformation. But while , internet falsehoods in general are probably pretty dangerous, too.

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