The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News

A large megaphone projects lies, fake news, falsehoods, and images of Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg, and Hillary Clinton. A smaller megaphone projects truth.

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The massive new study analyzes every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years—and finds that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor. By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories.

“It seems to be pretty clear [from our study] that false information outperforms true information,” said Soroush Vosoughi, a data scientist at MIT who has studied fake news since 2013 and who led this study. “And that is not just because of bots. It might have something to do with human nature.”

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Avengers: Infinity War Crossover Meme

Has this meme been appearing all over your social feeds in last few days? Here are some articles with tons of examples:

  • People are having lots of fun coming up with examples of more ‘ambitious’ crossover events than Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ [link]
  • The internet doesn’t think ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is the most ambitious crossover event [link]
  • The ‘Infinity War’ Crossover Meme Is The Only Good Meme Right Now [link]

 

The Reality of Twitter Puffery. Or Why Does Everyone Now Hate Bots?

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A friend of mine worked for an online dating company whose audience was predominantly hetero 30-somethings. At some point, they realized that a large number of the “female” accounts were actually bait for porn sites and 1–900 numbers. I don’t remember if users complained or if they found it themselves, but they concluded that they needed to get rid of these fake profiles. So they did.

And then their numbers started dropping. And dropping. And dropping.

Trying to understand why, researchers were sent in. What they learned was that hot men were attracted to the site because there were women that they felt were out of their league.

Why am I telling you this story? Fake accounts and bots on social media are not new. Yet, in the last couple of weeks, there’s been newfound hysteria around Twitter bots and fake accounts. I find it deeply problematic that folks are saying that having fake followers is inauthentic. This is like saying that makeup is inauthentic. What is really going on here?

Twitter’s Great Depression

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I left Twitter on January 1st.

Yet, I am jonesing.

I’ve been on Twitter for over 10 years. I’ve met a ton of great people on there. And up until recently it’s been fun! (I wrote about my whole history with Twitter a while back.) It was often the first thing I checked in the morning and the last thing I checked at night. It was like air. And then it wasn’t fun anymore. (Some would argue that for them, it was never fun. And that distinction was/is often based along gender and racial lines.) And now it’s gone from not being fun to being toxic.

It’s been two weeks since I’ve sent a tweet. The app’s still on my phone. (They say the best way to quit is with a pack still in your pocket.) The account’s still up for practical reasons. First off, I use it to log in to several things. Yeah, I can change that, but it’s a pain in the ass. More importantly, people still DM me once in a while, and some of those are business leads, which I don’t want to lose. Plus, I’ve got embedded tweets all over the place, and other folks have embedded my tweets in their own articles. So if I actually shut down the account things break. I don’t want things to break any more than they already have.

“It Me,” You and Everyone We Know: A Look at the Web’s Most Ambiguous Meme

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Enter the meme simply known as “it me.” On Twitter, “it me” often accompanies a selfie, a quoted headline or images from the web. Usually used as a punchline to a joke, the set-up to “it me” jokes are consistent: a mortifying, self-deprecating, factual or quirky image or statement. Or sometimes, though this is rare, a pun.

…My friend Sarah Hagi thinks “it me” is often used as a deflective tool, “For example, people don’t really believe mercury’s in retrograde, it’s just another way to pin how you feel on something else.” In that sense, “it me” functions as ironic humor. There’s a deflective quality to ironic humor. It masks the truth, though not the whole truth, revealing only a sliver of reality.