Social Media: Is Everything You See on the Internet True?

Over the past few years, social media has been flooded with what people claim to be “fake news”. While most of the “fake news” out there is called out due to personal opinion, some of it is ultimately composed of lies. But unfortunately, that’s the kind of stuff that quickly goes viral.

Social media can be used for many different purposes. It can be used to stay connected with friends and family, or it can be used to talk about a new product on the market. In fact, studies show that about 40% of consumers would share photos of packaging on social media if they found it interesting.

Along with being used for production purposes, WKOW says that it’s often used to alert the community to an issue. When the powerful East Coast earthquake hit on August 23, 2011, New York City residents saw Twitter alerts about the activity starting in Virginia. That was a full 20 seconds before the waves hit the city. Facebook says the word “earthquake” appeared in the status updates of three million users within four minutes of the quake. More recently, it was used during the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing. Social media users were claiming that there was a third bomber involved in the attack. While it is a great way to get real-time updates, the claim of the third bomber wasn’t actually true.

Soroush Vosoughi was a student at MIT during the bombing. He was one of the millions of people that hopped on social media that day to see what was going on. At the time, Vosoughi didn’t realize that the rumors of the third bomber were actually 70% more likely to be shared than the truth itself. Now, a postdoctoral associate, Vosoughi knows that false news tends to spread quicker than what is real. He realized this after becoming the co-author of a study from MIT’s Media Lab. This study was published in March ninth’s issue of Science and covers Tweets from the launch of the platform in 2006 to 2017.

Studies in the past have found ways to diffuse rumors, but Vosoughi study compared rumors and verified stories. The researchers for this study used 126,000 stories from six fact-checking independent organizations. They took stories that were labeled as mixed, true, and false, and analyzed their spread. The team found that the true stories on Twitter only reached about 1,000 people. But, the false Tweets actually reached between 1,000 and 100,000 users.

So, you know what they say about believing things on the internet? Before you believe anything out there to be true, fact-checking can make a world of difference.

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