Our headline is a bit of an exaggeration, but it made you click–just like a good share of the barely-believable stuff you read on Twitter that turns out to be totally untrue.
A report published this week in The New Scientist (registration unfortunately required) found that 25 percent of all tweets sent are “not credible.”
This might not come as a surprise to frequent tweeters. If you spend any time diving into the 140-character rabbit hole, you will quickly realize that people post false information all the time for various reasons (curiosity, ignorance, a genuine desire to mess with people’s heads, etc.).
But PR folks can easily see why this is a problem.
For example, researchers found that variations on a 2014 story about “Ebola zombies” were shared by millions despite being quite obviously fake; Newsweek even ran an “Ebola victim REALLY DID come back to life” follow-up.
We don’t even need to mention all the false rumors about politicians, celebrities and big brands that hit Twitter every second.
The people behind the study were slightly self-interested: they’re releasing CREDBANK, a database that combines human filters and algorithms to sort the real from the not-so-real. Here’s the problem: their team took 96 days to assess “60 million tweets about 1000 news events.”
In other words, rumors spread on Twitter are almost impossible to squash. Good luck.