AP

On Twitter, limited number of users spreading fake info

Jan 24, 2019, 1:30 PM
FILE - This  April 26, 2017 photo shows the Twitter app on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. Twitter ...
FILE - This April 26, 2017 photo shows the Twitter app on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. Twitter says it will begin removing suspicious accounts it has locked, denying access to its owner, from how it counts users’ followers. This means Twitter users are likely to see a reduction in their follower counts in the coming days The company said Wednesday, July 11, 2018, that the move will not affect its number of monthly or daily active user figures. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A tiny fraction of Twitter users spread the vast majority of fake news in 2016, with conservatives and older people sharing misinformation more, a new study finds.

Scientists examined more than 16,000 U.S. Twitter accounts and found that 16 of them — less than one-tenth of 1 percent — tweeted out nearly 80 percent of the misinformation masquerading as news, according to a study Thursday in the journal Science. About 99 percent of the Twitter users spread virtually no fake information in the most heated part of the election year, said study co-author David Lazer, a Northeastern University political and computer science professor.

Spreading fake information “is taking place in a very seamy, but small, corner of Twitter,” Lazer said.

Lazer said misinformation “super sharers” flood Twitter: an average of 308 pieces of fakery each between Aug. 1 and Dec. 6 in 2016.

And it’s not just few people spreading it, but few people reading it, Lazer said.

“The vast majority of people are exposed to very little fake news despite the fact that there’s a concerted effort to push it into the system,” Lazer said.

The researchers found the 16,442 accounts they analyzed by starting with a random pool of voter records, matching names to Twitter users and then screening out accounts that appeared to not be controlled by real people.

Their conclusions are similar to a study earlier this month that looked at the spread of false information on Facebook. It also found that few people shared fakery, but those who did were more likely to be over 65 and conservatives.

That makes this study more believable because two groups of researchers using different social media platforms, measuring political affiliation differently and with different panels of users came to the same conclusion, said Yonchai Benkler, co-director of Harvard Law School’s center on the internet and society. He wasn’t part of either study but praised them, saying they should reduce misguided postelection panic about how “out-of-control technological processes had rendered us as a society incapable of telling truth from fiction.”

Experts say a recent showdown between Kentucky Catholic school students and a Native American elder at the Lincoln Memorial seemed to be stoked by a single now-shut down Twitter account. Lazer said the account fit some characteristics of super sharers from his study but it was more left-leaning, which didn’t match the study.

Unlike the earlier Facebook study, Lazer didn’t interview the people but ranked people’s politics based on what they read and shared on Twitter.

The researchers used several different sources of domains for false information masquerading as news — not individual stories but overall sites — from lists compiled by other academics and BuzzFeed. While five outside experts praised the study, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, head of the public policy center at the University of Pennsylvania, found several problems, especially with how they determined fake information sites.

Lazer’s team found that among people they categorized as left-leaning and centrists, fewer than 5 percent shared any fake information. Among those they determined were right-leaning, 11 percent of accounts shared misinformation masquerading as news. For those on the extreme right, it was 21 percent.

This study shows “most of us aren’t too bad at circulating information, but some of us are determined propagandists who are trying to manipulate the public sphere,” said Texas A&M University’s Jennifer Mercieca, a historian of political rhetoric who wasn’t part of the study.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

a small boy recieves a COVID-19 vaccine in China...
JOE McDONALD Associated Press

China eases anti-COVID measures following protests

Experts warn, however, that restrictions can’t be lifted completely until at least mid-2023 because millions of elderly people still must be vaccinated.
1 day ago
A memorial is pictured near the scene of the Colorado shooting at Club Q...
COLLEEN SLEVIN Associated Press

Colorado gay club shooting suspect charged with hate crimes

Investigators say Anderson Lee Aldrich entered Club Q, a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community in this mostly conservative city, just before midnight on Nov. 19.
2 days ago
DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 25: A giant flag of IR Iran on the pitch prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2...
ALI ABDUL-HASSAN and ABBY SEWELL Associated Press

US-Iran match reflects a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

The U.S. team’s must-win World Cup match against Iran will be closely watched across the Middle East, where the two nations have been engaged in a cold war for over four decades and where many blame one or both for the region’s woes.
9 days ago
Irene Cara in 'Fame' (Photo courtesy of Mgm/Kobal, Shutterstock)...
MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer

‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ singer-actor Irene Cara dies at 63

singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance ... What a Feeling” from 1983's “Flashdance,” has died. She was 63.
11 days ago
The U.S. Coast Guard ship Bernard C. Webber, leaves the coast guard base, Monday, July 19, 2021, in...
Associated Press

‘Miracle’: Missing cruise ship passenger found OK in water

The U.S. Coast Guard says a passenger who went overboard from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico was rescued on Thanksgiving after likely being in the water for hours.
12 days ago
FILE - A Montana man was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the Capitol riot. (AP P...
The Associated Press

Montana man gets 3 years in prison for role in Capitol riot

A Montana man will spend three years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S Capitol.
13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
On Twitter, limited number of users spreading fake info