The researchers behind the now-debunked study tried to claim at the time that people's short attention spans, as well as "information overload," both contribute to an epidemic of fake news being shared on social media platforms like Facebook – which, as we reported around the same time, is itself guilty of spreading fake news in the name of supposedly trying to fight it.
According to reports, major errors in the retracted study led co-author Filippo Menczer, a professor of informatics and computer science at Indiana University, and his colleagues to falsely conclude that the spread of fake news on social media is much more problematic than it actually is – in effect debunking the mythical rumor that then-candidate Donald Trump somehow "stole" the election by employing Russian bots to spread fake news online.
"Last spring, the researchers discovered the error when they tried to reproduce their results and found that while attention span and information overload did impact how fake news spread through their model network, they didn't impact it quite enough to account for the comparative rates at which real and fake news spread in real life," wrote Lilly Dancyger in an article for Rolling Stone that was also published by the New York Post.
"They alerted the journal right away, and the journal deliberated for almost a year whether to issue a correction or a retraction, before finally deciding on Monday to retract the article."
When asked to comment about the discovery, Menczer told Rolling Stone that it was "embarrassing," but also tried to claim that "errors occur," and that "of course when we find them we have to correct them." He went on to insist that, despite the errors resulting in his paper's retraction, the findings are still somehow true, simply because he says they are.
"The results of our paper show that in fact the low attention span does play a role in the spread of low-quality information, but to say that something plays a role is not the same as saying that it's enough to fully explain why something happens. It's one of many factors," Menczer is quoted as saying.
Menczer further told Rolling Stone that he and his colleagues are planning to conduct another study evaluating the role that bots play in the spread of fake news on social media – as if his previous paper's failure wasn't embarrassing enough.
"We found that bots can play a very important role in amplifying the spread" of fake news, Menczer insists, adding that their purpose is "specifically to spread low-quality information."
Meanwhile, another study published by Science Magazine just a few weeks ago came to the exact opposite conclusion of Menzcer's, revealing that fake news really isn't as problematic as the resisters claim it is.
This particular peer-reviewed paper found that misinformation campaigns online are not as prevalent as some people claim, and that "[t]he vast majority of Facebook users in our data did not share any articles from fake news domains in 2016 at all."
For more related news on this subject, be sure to check out Faked.news.
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