How Do Rumors Spread on Facebook?

How do rumors propagate on Facebook? And what propels them to go viral? One component seems to be whether people try to stop false rumors by linking to Snopes.com debunking such a rumor. From the Facebook Data Science team, their blog post and paper titled “Rumor Cascades” explains:

Tracking rumors on Facebook requires two types of information: a corpus of known rumors, and a sample of reshare cascades circulating on Facebook which can be matched to the corpus. The website Snopes.com has diligently documented thousands of rumors, and provides the starting point for our analysis. To match known rumors to this anonymized set of reshare cascades, we identify uploads and reshares that have been snoped — someone linked to a Snopes.com article in a comment. Those comments are posted by people to either warn their friends that something they posted is inaccurate or to the contrary, to validate that a rumor, though hard to believe, is in fact true. 

We gathered 250K comments, posted during July and August 2013 on 17K individual cascades, containing 62 million shares…

A summary from the abstract:

We find that receiving such a comment increases the likelihood that a reshare of a rumor will be deleted. Furthermore, large cascades are able to accumulate hundreds of Snopes comments while continuing to propagate. 

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