On Twitter, followers don’t let followers spread fake news

Social connection key to thwarting false rumors

periodiCALS, Vol. 7, Issue 2, 2017

There’s hope for those interested in quashing the fake news and false rumors that reverberate around the internet.

When Twitter users tweet a false rumor, they are more than twice as likely to accept correction if it comes from a mutual follower—someone they follow who also follows them—compared with when they are corrected by someone with whom they have no Twitter relationship. That’s the finding of Drew Margolin, assistant professor in the Department of Communication and the Geri Gay Faculty Fellow, whose research reveals clues about the relationship between facts and friends online. 

“Basically, people don’t want to look foolish in front of their friends, but are less concerned with what strangers think,” Margolin said.

“We are social beings first,” he added. “We care about our friends, family—our social group—and its interests at least as much, and often more, than we care about whether something is true or false.”