Small number on Twitter spread vast majority of fake news in 2016: study

Small number on Twitter spread vast majority of fake news in 2016: study

The majority of fake news that appeared on Twitter during the 2016 presidential election was spread by a small number of users, according to a new study.

Researchers from Northeastern University, Harvard University and the University of Buffalo examined the sharing of fake news on Twitter during the election and found that 0.1 percent of individuals accounted for nearly 80 percent of the sharing of fake news sources.

Additionally, about 99 percent of users on Twitter spread essentially no fake news during election season, co-author and Northeastern University professor David Lazer told The Associated Press.

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The study, published Thursday in the academic journal Science, also found that the individuals most likely to engage with fake news were conservative, older and engaged with political news.

Lazer also told the AP that fake news was spread by “super sharers” on Twitter — individuals who shared an average of 308 pieces of fake news between Aug. 1 and Dec. 6 in 2016.

He added that few individuals on Twitter were even exposed to fake news.

“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,” he said.

Jennifer Mercieca, a historian at Texas A&M University who wasn't part of the study, told the AP that the study shows that “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."