CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Dec. 14, 2018––The Altmetric Top 100 recently ranked MIT Sloan School of Management Prof. Sinan Aral’s paper on the spread of false news online #2 on its list on the top 100 most influential scientific papers of 2018. In order to more fully capture the influence and reach of scientific work and identify research generating significant international attention and discussion, Altmetric tracks 15 distinct sources in addition to scholarly citations, including public-policy papers, news articles, blogs, syllabi, and social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. The ranking, which lists the 100 research papers published in 2018 that have generated the most international attention and discussion, highlighted Aral’s paper that was published on the cover of Science in March 2018 and coauthored by MIT Prof. Deb Roy and researcher Soroush Vosoughi of the MIT Media Lab.
“False news can disrupt our democracies, our economies and our public health,” says Aral. “Although false news has been around for a long time, the speed with which it spreads today makes it possible for falsity to have devastating impacts before the truth can be aired and the misinformation is corrected.”
Their research in this area began after the Boston Marathon Bombings of 2013 when a flurry of misinformation spread on social media, and MIT police officer Sean Collier was shot and killed during the search for the bomber.
“We've been researching this topic ever since,” says Aral, who recently conducted a TEDxCERN talk on the spread of fake news. “The importance of the research now speaks for itself. There are accounts of one false tweet that claimed Barack Obama had been injured in an explosion wiping out $140B of equity value in a single day. And U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 3 Russian organizations and 13 Russian citizens on a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. for interfering with the 2016 presidential elections.”
Additional examples, he notes, include claims that one-third of the information spreading about the recent Swedish elections was false and the rise of "genocidal propaganda" spreading in Burma and India, leading to mass killings.
As for the paper’s ranking by Altmetric, he says, “We think people are starting to realize how important this problem of false news really is. We hope our colleagues will be inspired to join the research effort to help stem the rise of falsity. These are dangerous times and we must remain vigilant in the fight to defend the truth against the rise of falsity in our society.”
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