Between 86 and 91 per cent of Twitter users spread fake news on the platform by either retweeting or liking the original tweet – with just five to nine per cent seeking to confirm the false information.
According to analysis of over 20,000 tweets by the University at Buffalo, looking at fake news surrounding both hurricane Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombing, the problems get even more damning with just one to nine per cent expressing doubt about the original tweet.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate how apt Twitter users are at debunking falsehoods during disasters. Unfortunately, the results paint a less than flattering picture,” said Jun Zhuang, associate professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems and Engineering in the University at Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The research also found that less than 10 per cent of users who spread fake news deleted their retweets once the false news had been debunked, while less than 20 per cent of the same users clarified the false tweet with a new tweet.
On the other hand, despite Twitter users being likely to spread fake news during disasters, Twitter and other platforms tend to move quickly to correct the information. Furthermore, the research did not look at instances where the original tweets had been seen but ignored.